Opinion Former Article

Rolling action continues with environment walkouts

A national three-month campaign of strikes and protests by the Public and Commercial Services union continues tomorrow (15) with a strike by environment staff.

The 24-hour stoppage will hit a range of bodies in England, including the Rural Payments Agency, which supports British agriculture and whose deadline for applications for EU grants falls on that day.

Other staff involved include those who manage our coasts (Marine Management Organisation), protect our countryside and nature reserves (Natural England) and work for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, set up in the wake of the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay.

In total more than 3,000 of the union's members across 11 organisations, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs headquarters in London, will be affected.

The strike starts a six-week programme of protests by the union's members working in environment and forms part of a civil service-wide campaign over the government's imposed cuts to pay, pensions, jobs and working conditions.

This has already included national walkouts on budget day on 20 March and a long weekend of action from 5 to 8 April, as well as individual strikes by Home Office workers and last week staff in non-departmental public bodies.

This week, the union's members who work for Scottish government departments and agencies and the Scottish parliament are involved in a range of strikes over three days.

Across Defra and its agencies a quarter of the workforce has been cut since 2010 and senior managers have imposed a new performance management system that the union says is discriminatory and unfair.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Whether it's looking after British farming, protecting our countryside or managing our coasts, the work our members do is vitally important and touches all our lives.

"The government should treat their staff with the respect they deserve and stop ignoring our reasonable requests to negotiate about the serious issues they are facing."



- Organisations involved in the strike include:

Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (HQ in Worcester and offices around the country) and Veterinary Medicines Directorate (large laboratory housing staff from both agencies in Weybridge, Surrey)
Gangmasters Licensing Authority (HQ in Nottingham)
Defra (London HQ includes policy, planning and admin staff, and a large office in York includes human resources staff currently facing privatisation)
Marine Management Organisation (HQ in Newcastle and offices around England)
Natural England (HQ in Sheffield and sites across England)
Rural Payments Agency (HQ in Reading, Berkshire, and large offices in Workington, Cumbria, and Newcastle, as well as offices across the country)

- For information and interview requests contact PCS national press officer Richard Simcox on 020 7801 2747, 07833 978216 or richard@pcs.org.uk and for more about the campaign visit http://www.pcs.org.uk/actionnow

- PCS is the UK's sixth largest union and represents civil and public servants in central government and in parts of government transferred to the private sector. Mark Serwotka is the general secretary and the president is Janice Godrich - on Twitter @janicegodrich

- Follow PCS on Twitter @pcs_union


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