PCS, a public sector workers’ union, held a 24 hour strike yesterday (Wednesday), while Horsham MP Francis Maude condemned the action as ‘irresponsible’.
A picket line assembled outside the courts in Hurst Road, Horsham, as the Public and Commercial Services union strike took hold.
The union says it has asked the Government for talks over cuts to pay, pensions and terms and conditions, but ministers have declined to negotiate with them.
That same morning Horsham MP Francis Maude, in his role as Cabinet Office minister, publicly condemned the strike as ‘futile, counterproductive and irresponsible.’
“The public will have been inconvenienced to a very small extent by the strike today,” he said. “The borders at the airports and ports have been properly manned, queues have been minimal and I am delighted to say that at Birmingham airport alone there have been significant seizures of illegal drugs, to the benefit of protecting the public.”
Strikers insisted they had the public’s interests, as well as their own, at heart.
A union representative said: “We’re just making a point. We’re fed up with the cutbacks - not only do they affect us, they affect everybody.
“The public will see that because the service they get won’t be as good.
“We’re pleased about the public support this morning - we’ve had lots of support, which is really nice.”
The PCS has nearly 250,000 members in Government departments and agencies, including: air traffic control; benefits advice; border and immigration; Coastguard; courts service; Customs and Excise; defence maintenance and support; information technology; police support; royal palaces; security; state pensions; and taxation.
The union is planning a programme of rolling strike action over the next few months. Richard Simcox, PCS national press officer, told the County Times: “The next walkout we’re planning is a half day walkout on April 5, which is the end of the tax year.
“As well as our members facing increases in their pension contributions, we’ve got the introduction of measures such as the bedroom tax, and also the fact that millionaires are getting a tax cut.”
He said they will also campaign on wider issues, like the welfare state and inequality.
“The Government’s making our society more unequal and more unfair.”
A statement from PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is not a one-day protest, this is the start of a rolling programme of walkouts and disruptive action to put pressure on a government that is refusing to talk to us.
“We warned more than two years ago that austerity wouldn’t work and we were right.”