Interview between Paul Stainton BBC Radio Peterborough and Angus Ellis of the Public and Commercial Services Union on Monday 8th March at 08:15 am from the picket line in Peterborough.
PS: Civil servants are striking nationwide and across Peterborough this morning. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union have begun a two day action over redundancy pay. In Peterborough hundreds of people have gone on strike, JobCentrePlus staff, the Passport Offices, if you’re due in Court today you’ve got a reprieve, they’re on strike. The Tax Office are amongst those affected as well. Angus Ellis is from the PCS. He’s at the picket line outside JobCentrePlus this morning. Good morning Angus.
AE: Good morning from a very cold picket line.
PS: Yes it’s very cold out there this morning. Has that put people off?
AE: We’ve got good support for the strike. There’s a lot of people not coming in today. As you said, it’s across Peterborough, not just JobCentrePlus, not just the DWP but obviously the Passport Office, Land Registry, Natural England, Tax Offices, DVLA, The Courts, as you said, lots of people unhappy. Now we really really don’t want to be on strike today. We were hoping this was going to get called off, and hoping that the Treasury and management would come to their senses, come back to the negotiating table, and negotiate rather than just imposing a deal on redundancy payments.
PS: How difficult is it, Angus, to get people’s sympathy in this climate, when you go on strike.
AE: You were just talking to Marco Cereste weren’t you about the money they’re wasting on consultants in the Peterborough City Council? It’s not just Peterborough City Council which are wasting money on consultants, it’s also the civil service. For example, the Passport Office, their staff bill now, half their staff bill is for consultants. It’s an outrage. Because consultants cost probably about five times the amount of money that an ordinary member of staff does. Consultants are brought in with little knowledge, they come and they give their views about something. Often they get it wrong. Consultants are responsible for some of the computer errors back in the ’90s, when the Passport Office had it’s computer system which went down. Consultants were involved in that. Consultants are involved in the National Identity Card Scheme, which doesn’t look as if that’s going to happen. So that’s one way they can save money instead of penalising the poor. Civil servants aren’t all bowler-hatted people earning lots of money, like those senior ones, perhaps a few in Whitehall. Many of us are working below the average wage, some of us even have to claim tax credits, to make our wages up. We don’t want to be on strike. We don’t want to be losing two days money when money’s tight enough as it is. We’re not well off. And basically we’re looking for a fair deal.
PS: It’s painful for everybody though Angus. We’re all going through it aren’t we? Maggs has been on the text. She says, civil servants, too many of them, holding bits of paper, trying to look busy, not wanting to do anything.
AE: Well that’s not true do be honest. You go to a JobCentrePlus, you ask anybody who’s unemployed, the amount of work we have to do to try and get people back into work. There’s lots of really hard working people, including myself, trying to get people back into work, getting benefits paid, pensions paid, the taxes paid, your passports etcetera etcetera. That’s just not true. I don’t think she has ever been in the civil service building in her life. To be honest, at the end of the day, we can bail out the bankers, millions of pounds, OK they probably needed bailing out, but with no conditions whatsoever, yet they’re still not lending as much money as they should, and they’re still getting the bonuses. It’s not on really. And MPs can award themselves big wage rises. They don’t mind about the inefficiencies. They don’t mind about spending lots of money, but they want to penalise the hard-working people who are trying to get this country through the recovery.
PS: Just quickly Angus. You’ve got a rally later. Who is going to be there?
AE: Yes. There’s a rally later, 12-2 o’clock at Laxton Square, which is outside the Passport Office, near the Market. Please come along everybody. There’ll be a national NEC speaker, Ian Albert from the PCSU union, there’ll be Ron Graves who is the President of the Peterborough Trade Union Council, Ed Murphy, Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate who understands the plight of the civil servants around the country and is supporting us, also Mary Cooke from Peterborough Pensioners Association.
PS: Oh we know Mary ..we know Mary well. Well good luck, and hopefully this can be resolved very very soon, and you guyts from the PCSU union and the management can get together and sort this out without any more pain for the public.