Unite Against Homophobia

PCS members joined a solidarity protest against homophobic attacks in Birmingham on Thursday.

There have been a spate of attacks in the gay village area recently, with people being bottled and one person left unconscious.

The protest on Thursday drew several hundred people including many people from the LBGT+ community, trade unionists from the PCS, NEU, UCU and UNISON, local Labour councillors and campaigners. A wide range of people spoke condemning the attacks and expressing solidarity. Several speakers highlighted the rising tide of Transphobia and the need to resist it. In a moving speech two of the victims of these attacks spoke up and called for us all to stand together.

Hate crimes related to sexual orientation and gender identity have been on the increase since 2015. The Guardian reports “In the year to March 2020 in England and Wales, sexual orientation hate crimes rose by 19% to 15,835, and transgender identity hate crimes by 16% to 2,540 – averaging more than 50 reports each day.” These are horrific figures.
This rise has not occurred in a vacuum. We have a Prime Minister who is happy to use homophobic language. The government have unleashed a culture war which includes continued attacks on Stonewall and the scrapping of their LGBT+ advisory panel. They cancelled the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. These are all dog whistle politics from the Tory Party that create a climate in which attacks increase.

As an LGBT+ ally I was proud to attend the solidarity protest. I want to live in a society where my children can choose their sexuality free from fear. I want my work colleagues to be free to express their sexuality without fear of attack.

As the Tories press on with their attacks on the working class they will continue to try to divide us. We will all lose if they succeed. We need to fight for unity in the face of every attack, whether that is in the workplace or the community.

Pete Jackson

Tories attack the poorest in society. Enough is enough – the working class must make a stand

Throughout the pandemic this government has lurched from one catastrophe to another, always with the workers of this country paying the price, either financially or devastatingly with their health and even their lives. Tens of thousands of preventable deaths have occurred due to the failure of the Tory government to properly protect its citizens and as a direct result of decisions they have made. All while publicly awarding contracts to their friends and supporters, costing the tax payer billions for services that were never delivered, or at least not in full.

These are traits that any socialist knows come with a Conservative government, prioritising their friends and benefactors above the interests of the people as they have been doing in full view of the nation throughout this pandemic yet without the backlash we have every right to expect.

As with any government that neglects the people of its country there is always at least one issue that pushes society over the edge. That decision, which makes society say “enough is enough”.

The government’s plans to make the working class and poorest amongst us pay for their failings and the pandemic, can and must be the catalyst for the fightback.

The lowest paid and most vulnerable targeted

Public servants have rightly been applauded and hailed as heroes by politicians, employers and the public over the past 20 months. Providing vital services, often at great risk to themselves, has placed these “key workers” in the public eye like never before. Yet last Autumn, the Chancellor sent a shot across the bows that it is these same workers, who for months had been clapped on a Thursday and singled out for special praise, that would have to help foot the bill for the pandemic. A public sector pay freeze the first in a number of decisions, that showed the Tory mask was slipping.

Now, nearly a year on, we have seen in all its savagery the ideology that drives this government. The working class will pay, must pay, regardless of the consequences. On top of the attacks on our pay, the forecasts for rises in inflation, the proposed increased in NI contributions from next April, and now attacks to the benefits of the most vulnerable, see threats to our living standards the likes of which many haven’t seen since the 1970’s.

Let’s be clear, poverty and devastation will follow for millions unless this government is stopped and forced to back track from it’s ideologically driven agenda.

PCS has written to the Secretary of State for Social Security demanding the reversal of the Government’s decision to scrap the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit. In that letter the union’s General Secretary has quoted some feedback received from members as to what this cut to benefit will mean to them. Not only, as DWP workers expected to deliver the benefits system, what they will witness from the claimants they support, but as government workers who need to claim the very benefits they deliver, such are the low levels of their own pay. Some of the feedback received by the DWP group is heartbreaking and must be used to not only highlight the devastation these attacks will have on our members and the public, but to also build alliances and a coalition of activists, trade unionists, and community leaders that will take this fight on.

There has never been a more important time for the working class of the UK to rise up against a government hell bent on eroding the living standards for the majority. There has never been a better time to unite the 99%, putting aside sectarian differences for the good of those who will ultimately pay the price of division within our movement.

In the coming weeks members of PCS Left Unity will be engaging with members across DWP and other employer groups, about the union’s national campaign and seeking to build those wider alliances as we fight the attacks on the most vulnerable in our communities.

We urge every member to engage with the union and consider joining PCS Left Unity in our efforts to build the fight back that can win for members and society.

Martin Cavanagh

Celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street

Whilst many PCS members attended the demonstration against the Tory Party Conference in defiance of austerity on Sunday 3rd October, I attended the 85th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street with my PCS flag. This event was important as the planned march by the British Union of Fascists under their leader, Oswald Mosley in 1936, was due to proceed. It was, initially, blocked by over 200,000 protesters from the Jewish and Irish communities that, initially, blocked Whitechapel High Street. As a result, Oswald Mosley’s 2,500 Black Shirts were outnumbered 10 to 1 and decided not to proceed with the march.

His ally, Benito Mussolini who was the fascist dictator of Italy, declared Mosley, a coward and stopped all funding of the British Union of Fascists. As a result, the movement was soon to crumble along with Mosley’s popularity. In the same year, King Edward VIII, a fascist sympathiser, abdicated. Without a doubt, it was a great victory to all the anti – fascist organisers which included Communists, Socialists, the local Jewish residents and the Irish dockers of the East End who were ready to fight Mosley’s Black Shirts. Sadly, Fascism and Nazism prevailed in much of Western Europe with Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy till 1945. In 1936, Franco declared a Civil War in Spain against the democratically elected Socialist Republican government and overthrew them within three years. Today, many Trade Unions are affiliated to the International Brigades Memorial Trust for the anti – fascist volunteers who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War. I am a member of the IBMT.

The 85th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street was a very important day for me. I am second generation Irish and grew up in North London with many Jewish friends and neighbours. Hence, it is the reason that I carried the Irish flag with my own PCS flag and marched beside many Jewish groups on this important occasion. I am, also, a proud Socialist of Left Unity in PCS who campaigns for the rights of Disabled Workers within the TUC. I was the Secretary of Barnet Trades Union Council which has the largest Jewish population in Britain.

Today, the Far Right which consist of many groups such as Britain First, the English Defence League, the Football Lads Alliance and even the defunct National Front of the seventies, promote hatred and divisions amongst all working people. In PCS, it is important that we stand in solidarity against the Far Right as an injury to one is an injury to all! In my branch, there are a high percentage of PCS members who are Black as well as Muslim along with other faiths. As a PCS Union Representative, I believe it is vital that we stand up to racism, anti – semiticism, islamaphobia and ableism! This rally, also, makes links with the Bengali resistance to racism and fascism in East End in the seventies. In addition, I campaign against the Far Right in Ireland as well as internationally. PCS has a zero – tolerance policy against all forms of Far Right hatred including sectarianism! 

After we marched to the rally, we had a number of guest speakers including Apsana Begum MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP (Project for Peace and Justice), Rabbi Herschel Gluck, Mick Lynch (RMT General Secretary), Alex Gordon (RMT President), Massimo Ungaro MP (Italy), Amina Patel (Unison), Abdul Chowdhury (NEU), Noorahmed Uddin (Altab Ali Foundation), Joginder Bains (Indian Workers Association – GB) Julia Bard (Jewish Socialists’ Group), Rob Griffiths, (Communist Party), Weyman Bennet (Stand Up To Racism) Marlene Sidaway (International Brigades Memorial Trust), and relatives of the activists of 1936: Michael Rosen, Ruth Levitas, June Legg, and Tony Booth (Jewish Voice for Labour). All speakers made great contributions in reference to the Left which made a courageous stand against fascism, with the Jewish and Irish workers as their backbone. Today, all communities including the Bengalis, Muslims, Hindus and all faiths made a stand against the Far Right in this area!

Apsana Begum began by stating that she was a proud Socialist and Trade Unionist. She condemned the institutions that scapegoated immigrants all over Europe. Ms. Begum did not hesitate to state that the police were there in 1936 to protect the fascists. But their planned demonstration was blocked by the bravery of the anti – fascists. It is important that we continue this fight, today, as corruption, still, prevails in our police force. One of the police officers arrested, handcuffed, raped and murdered Sarah Everad. We must continue to hold the police accountable to natural justice. As a proud Bangladeshi MP of this area in Cable Street, she concluded “No Pasaran,” which is message against all Far Right people: “They shall not pass!”

As Jeremy Corbyn spoke, he thanked all those people who protested against fascism on 3rd October. He, also, condemned the discrediting of Apsana Begum in Parliament by many other MPs, especially as she represented this constituency of Cable Street in Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn stated that the Jewish and Irish communities came together in 1936, to say “They shall not pass!” He added that the Far Right wants to blame minorities for anything and referred to Grant Shapps, the Minister for the DVLA and DVSA as a prime example. Grant Shapps sent letters to MPs complaining of fuel shortage. Jeremy emphasised that fuel shortage can only be caused by poverty wages for workers, and the government should take the blame. Instead, Grant Shapps blamed it on the shortage of drivers because many Eastern Europeans came to Britain, ten years ago, by undercutting their wages. Shapps claims that they have gone home, recently, leaving a shortage of jobs for drivers. Corbyn made clear that it is another example of a right wing conservative government blaming immigrants!

From my own perspective, it is one of the many reasons that PCS members in the DVLA and DVSA are on Strike during the COVID 19 Pandemic. Full Credit for this industrial action goes to the PCS Branch members as well their Representative, Sarah Evans, and their Group President, Paul Williams, from Left Unity. Such scapegoating of immigrants amongst drivers must deliver a strong message to all the PCS members in their next ballot for industrial action!

Jeremy Corbyn added in his speech that it is fine to celebrate Black History Month. But we need to follow the example in the Welsh education curriculum of removing the teachings of the British Colonial past from our schools in order to further promote Black History Month. He concluded that we must give hope to the next generation not by free market economics but by building the communities with a hopeful future that society depends upon!

As I conclude, 85 years ago was a great victory for us! We need to continue these victories as the Far Right has not gone away! PCS under the leadership of Left Unity can deliver on this promise through actions and not, just, words! Solidarity! They shall not pass! No Pasaran!

Austin Harney

Climate Justice is Social Justice

‘Climate justice is social justice’ as Greta Thurnberg said. PCS has to be involved in the fight for climate justice as we are embedded in the fight for social justice.
On Saturday 18th September we joined with climate activists in Newcastle to raise awareness of the plight of our planet and the immediate need for action. People came together for a march and rally in the centre of the city to highlight the upcoming COP26 summit in November in Glasgow.
It was an uplifting occasion with a wide range of activists from many areas of expertise. We learned that action needs to be taken now, that unions need to be at the forefront of change and that alliances across unions and pressure groups can get results.
I had a representative from PCS DWP YMAC with me on the speakers platform, it was wonderful to show our unity by collaboration across the ages. This is an issue for all of us, for now and for future. We were proud to represent PCS, to meet sisters from other unions, on a great day for the fight for climate justice.

Bridget Corcoran

Below is Bridget’s speech.

I’m here today with Ethan, Georgia and Becca, to represent PCS union, the union for civil servants and commercial sector, affirming our support for climate justice.

We, as a union believe and support the campaign for climate justice because we recognise that it is social justice. We recognise that we need radical action now. The multiple crises we face are not going to be solved with more exploitation of people and the planet.

During the pandemic UK billionaire wealth grew 35%, UK foodbank use grew 33% – this confirms what we know – this is a government presiding over and extending already existing inequalities in our society.

In PCS we know, and our members know, that this government does not value people and the planet – it prefers quick profit, short sighted thinking and bombastic sloganeering.

At this time of ultimate global crisis, we need governments with principles, ethics and action to confront the climate crisis and to implement a radical workers led justice transition. Local and global justice must be at the heart of this transition, through people-owned decentralised energy systems, expansion of care services, locally sourced food and green affordable housing and public housing.

It can be done; but we will have to fight to make it happen. We will have to fight like never before. Unions are important in this fight bringing collective action, solidarity and coordination. If you are not a member of a union – please join. If you are a member – ask what your union is doing to support the COP26 Coalition and get active in your workplace to support climate justice. Join us in November to show our government and the global governments that climate justice matters, and it matters now. 

Massive vote to strike by driving examiners

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Driving Examiners, who are members of PCS, were subjected to delivering driving tests where social distancing could not be introduced within a car. It was only at the insistence of the Government with the two national lockdowns that Driving Examiners were finally sent home and driving tests were suspended. Even when this happened many of our Driving Examiner members volunteered to help deliver NHS staff to COVID centres, hospitals, or deliver medical equipment etc on a voluntary basis. Of course, our union also ensured those Examiners that were clinically extremely vulnerable were kept at home, given the lack of social distancing.

During the period when Tiering was introduced i.e. where COVID restrictions were put in place in different towns and regions, our members were still forced to carry on delivering tests.

As a result of the pandemic a backlog of some 400,000 driving tests have built up over 18 months. DVSA’s response at first, was to hire some 200 new Examiners, whose terms and conditions are far worse than the existing terms and conditions, they included Saturdays and Sundays with no real restrictions on how far they travel. Perhaps most significantly is a clause in that contract which allows them to be sacked when the backlog is cleared.

On top of this DVSA, Grant Shapps, and his Ministers have introduced changes to the HGV driving test, this included passing our work to the private sector, and introducing more HGV tests per day. All of this puts the health safety and wellbeing of our members at risk.

Their whole reason for this was apparently due to a shortage of HGV drivers, however driving tests are not the main reason for the shortage of HGV drivers. This is due to a number of other factors, Brexit, the change in delivery services during the pandemic with many HGV drivers swapping poor pay and conditions and delivering for Amazon etc, and a backlog in HGV training which is solely sat with the private sector. So, giving more work to the private sector to deliver more tests will add, not decrease the problems. In a significant and provocative move Shapps has now announced that Military Driving Examiners will also carry out HGV tests.

Above all DVSA and Government Ministers have continued with the same targets they had pre- COVID-19. As a result of this they have introduced a situation where they want Driving Examiners to work 8 car tests per day instead of 7 car tests. This has meant taking no notice of the stress already suffered by members and is attempting to increase their workload. PCS has argued hard and fast to stop this nonsense and to have a full health and wellbeing timing study conducted which takes account of all that our members do during their day, not just driving tests. This has been completely ignored and DVSA have taken forward their 8th test schedule. When doing this they have enforced changes to our part time and partially retired members employment contracts, making them work longer or taking no notice of their existing contractual arrangements. Road Safety is being completely ignored, and all of this is being introduced on top of announcing a pay freeze.

On that basis we have balloted all of our Driving Examiners (some 900 of them). Although, we did not ballot members over the HGV issues (as these were introduced after our ballot began), all Driving Examiners are employed as car Driving Examiners so our dispute will include those carrying out HGV tests.

Our demands are simple and realistic.

  • That an eight-test schedule will not be introduced without the agreement of PCS
  • That DVSA reach agreement with PCS on measures to ensure that the introduction of the Eight Test Schedule does not represent an unacceptable risk in relation to the health, safety, and wellbeing of our members, of candidates and of other road users
  • That DVSA reach agreement with PCS on any changes to existing contractual terms and conditions of staff, established through custom and practice and / or explicit contractual terms, arising from the introduction of an Eight Test Schedule

Our ballot has now finished, and the result is a historic one for PCS.

With the members entitled to vote in the ballot, we have had an 82% turnout with 92% of our 1100 members voting for strike action, and around 96% voting for action short of strike. This shows the strength of feeling that now exists amongst Driving Examiners.

In true DVSA fashion they have continued to try and implement the 8th test schedule and therefore we have announced national strike action on the 18th/19th October with Regional strikes in further weeks following this.

There can be no doubt that the ballot result has shocked both Government Ministers and DVSA officials, we should not rule out further talks or action, as the aim of decreasing a backlog looks very much like it will do the opposite and increase.

For activists and members of this Union we should note that Left Unity activists have been at the forefront of this dispute.

Our message is simple – our members will not pay for the COVID pandemic which has affected all of us, we will not work longer and harder for less!!

Paul Williams DfT group President

United action across our movement more vital than ever

This article was first published in the Morning Star https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/unity-action-across-our-movement-more-vital-ever

THE Covid pandemic exposed all the insecurity that working people face under capitalism.

Tory incompetence and indifference caused tens of thousands of avoidable deaths, while billions of pounds in contracts were awarded to enrich their families, friends and big business backers for services that did not deliver.

It was the trade unions, in education, transport, the civil and public services and elsewhere who demanded, and fought for, safe working conditions for members and service users.

And despite the almost total absence of any political opposition to the government’s chaotic handling of the crisis, it was the unions who won concessions on financial support for workers and benefit claimants.

Working people could see who was really on their side when things got tough, and this has reflected in membership growth in many unions.

As with the 2008 banking crisis, the Tories want us to pick up the bill for the failure of their profit before people system.

They want to steal back the universal credit uplift, driving millions deeper into poverty, and after years of systematic cuts and privatisation in healthcare provision, they want to raise National Insurance to pay for social care, placing further financial burdens on the lowest paid.

Attacks on workers’ conditions and rights, whether in the public and private sector, will intensify — cuts, privatisation, low wages, dismantling of social security and outsourcing of the NHS, zero-hours contracts, fire and rehire and the rest.

The trade union movement must unite as never before to meet this onslaught.

Workers have shown that they are prepared to fight back. Our members at DVLA Swansea have taken months of industrial action to secure the most basic demand imaginable — the right to a safe workplace.

An agreement was reached, but was shredded by Tory ministers who want to set an example to workers everywhere by forcing their own staff to keep quiet and work in unsafe conditions.

Our members will not accept this and we will continue this struggle until they are satisfied going to work does not mean unnecessary exposure to infection.

Our members’ resolve has been strengthened by the tremendous solidarity they have been shown from across the movement.

When we are strong, united and determined we can defeat the Tories. Building unity in action across our movement must be our priority.

Unions should not be competitors, but comrades working together to build the widest possible campaigns, including, when required, industrial action, to defend our wages, conditions and services.

Let’s take one example, our National Health Service is being torn apart by cuts and privatisation. That cannot just be the concern of health service unions — the entire movement must unite in a co-ordinated campaign to defend our most precious asset.

Attacks on the social security system, on education, local authorities and so many other services stem from the same source — the government and the profiteers.

My union has consistently argued at the TUC that fighting separately has allowed the Tories to divide and isolate. This must end now. A united, co-ordinated response to all these attacks is now a necessity.

The trade union movement must be fearless in offering our members, and all workers, a genuine alternative, based on the needs of the millions, not the profiteering of a tiny elite.

For example, climate change presents an existential threat to humanity which capitalism is incapable of resolving.

We can only begin to resolve this crisis by demanding the public ownership of utilities, by effective planning and massive investment in climate jobs.

Westminster politicians have learned nothing from the Afghanistan debacle, our movement must be implacably opposed to imperialist warmongering.

No force in society is better placed to oppose the Tories than the trade union movement.

We must prioritise building workplace strength in our individual unions, maximise unity across the movement and reach out to the millions of unorganised workers, while building support in our communities and working in solidarity with social movements like Black Lives Matter and the People’s Assembly.

All this and more will be discussed at the People’s Assembly pre-TUC rally on Sunday September 12 which I urge you to tune in to. The meeting can be viewed here https://fb.watch/7ZSFtI4dO-/

Leading trade unionists and social movement campaigners will set out what must be done to build opposition to the Tories and why we must build an alternative — a socialist alternative.

Fran Heathcote, PCS President

Left Unity congratulates Sharon Graham

PCS Left Unity congratulates Sharon Graham on her election as first female General Secretary of Unite.

We know that the period ahead is going to be incredibly tough and look forward to working with Unite comrades, under your leadership, to join up our campaigns and struggles wherever possible.

Strong unions are needed now like never before, and we recognise that we need to build as much solidarity as possible. Our members have many issues in common with yours, and we look forward to developing a coordinated approach with Unite, and other left-led unions, to build the biggest fightback possible. That coordination and solidarity is what will get us through the period ahead, and your election gives real hope and confidence to activists across the movement.

In Solidarity. 

DWP Left Unity GEC leadership agree strategy for building campaigns

The DWP Group Executive Committee (GEC) of PCS met on 21st and 22nd July to debate the critical issues facing our members, including the disgraceful and insulting pay award from the employer, the ongoing dispute in Jobcentres, and the risks to our members following the post-19th July lifting of restrictions.

GEC rejects pay offer

Following the government’s announcement of a pay freeze across the civil service and related bodies, PCS rightly called out this callous, ideologically driven move to make workers pay for the pandemic.

Our members in DWP, as elsewhere across the public sector, have delivered throughout this crisis, keeping the benefits system afloat. PCS members have ensured much needed financial assistance was given to those most in need, including to millions who had never previously had to rely on benefits, whilst also ensuring the delivery of other vital services.

Our members have not been immune to the effects of Covid-19 themselves; as has happened throughout society, many have been taken ill or worse, seen loved ones suffer, or lose their jobs. Despite this DWP workers have been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, stepping up time and time again, ensuring the most vulnerable in society received support, at great risk to themselves and their families.

The warm words of praise that came from politicians and the public alike were welcome, but warm words do not pay bills or feed the family.

Whilst having been too often seen as the enemy due to the harshness of the benefits system, the hard work and the support provided by our members to those in financial difficulty had begun to change the negative narrative, going some way to repairing DWP’s reputation. This being the case, government had an opportunity, and a duty, to deliver more than warm words to our workers – they could have given due recognition to the magnificent work of our members, and public servants in general, by rewarding all with a proper pay rise as a thank you for their efforts, whilst giving the economy a much needed boost.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they have chosen another path and allowed their ideological loathing of the public sector to target workers, including our members, to foot the bill for the pandemic.

The Left Unity leadership of PCS have a proven track record of taking on this abhorrent government, and only narrowly been prevented from taking industrial action on pay twice by the Tories anti-Trade Union legislation.

This GEC will not let this latest, disgraceful pay award go unchallenged and has agreed to continue our campaign with members in every workplace, in line with the GEC motion passed at last month’s group conference, outlining the group’s opposition to any offer linked to the pay freeze and supporting the national union’s demands. Now, following the recent publication of the imposed 2021 pay award, the GEC is fully committed to working with branches to build the confidence of members to get over that 50% hurdle imposed by anti-union laws in any future ballot.

The vast majority of our members can see the harsh reality, that they will receive no increase at all in their pay this year, with only the lowest paid in the department – those earning £24k or less – getting a paltry £250. In truth, this is a real terms pay cut for all of our members, with inflation forecast to rise.

Jobcentre dispute goes on as lifting of restrictions poses new threat

Following the recent consultative ballot, which once again delivered an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote for industrial action amongst Jobcentre members, the executive had already tasked the Organising Sub-Committee with reviewing the ballot data and producing a report to last week’s GEC to consider the next steps. In the meantime, the union has also received an increasing number of enquiries from concerned members outside of the Jobcentre network as to what the recent announcements about lifting restrictions from 19th July in England, and in the coming weeks for Scotland and Wales, will mean for them. Many have stated openly that they fear being forced back into the workplace before it is safe.

The Group leadership have continued to demand that DWP reduce the amount of face-to-face activity across our Jobcentres, with our members seeing in person only those customers who cannot be dealt with remotely, and that the employer honours the commitment they had previously given regarding work coach empowerment – with work coaches having the autonomy to decide how best to interview customers. Equally, due to the changing picture across the rest of society, recognising the risk that lifting restrictions could result in a return to the workplace for many of our members, the GEC has reiterated our further demand that there should be no mass return to offices until the pandemic is under control, and both infection and mortality rates have significantly decreased for a sustained period.

Right now, the trajectory for both is upwards and this, alongside the lifting of important safety measures across society, places our members at greater risk.

The GEC leadership have already made clear to members that they will be supported if they remove themselves from an unsafe working environment using Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, and we will continue to work with branches to identify where there is a collective mood to take action over threats to safety.

The Left Unity led GEC have been at the forefront of prioritising our members safety since the beginning of the pandemic, and we have been in dispute due to the risks faced by our members in Jobcentres since last August. The latest government announcements create the very real possibility that the concerns faced by our members in Jobcentres will now be extended to other directorates, and we have agreed to consult members across the whole group about the threat these developments pose to safety, building on our existing campaign.

Further details will be announced by the GEC in the coming days and weeks.

Campaigns to escalate

As part of this overarching picture, the GEC has agreed a strategy that will place an emphasis on working with branches to build our campaigning from the workplace up. The socialist leadership of our group has always understood that it is critical for that grass roots agitation to take place if we are to be successful in our campaigning, and in any industrial strategy we produce. It should, therefore, be welcomed that the GEC have overwhelmingly agreed both a branch organising plan and a template branch campaign plan, that can be central to our agitational work. Alongside the Sectoral Pay Group Campaign Plan also agreed at the GEC last week, they provide branches and the group with a template to be used across our various campaigns.

If used properly by engaged branches, both plans can be instrumental in building branch and members’ confidence in our ability to win our demands. While generic enough to be used by branches in any local campaigns, they should also prove a valuable resource in our ongoing safety and pay campaigns.

Campaign to win

The Left Unity led GEC have repeatedly argued the importance of membership engagement and the need for us as a group to respond collectively. We have committed to working with every tier of PCS to build our campaigns and to ensure that members have the confidence that we can be successful in achieving our demands.

It is that approach that has served us well throughout the pandemic, has delivered thousands of new staff into DWP, has seen the majority of members be able to work from home despite resistance from operations management, has seen us re-negotiate safeguards and HR policies at each key stage of the crisis, removed the threat of 8pm working in Jobcentres from the table, and delivered the initial rollback to escalation of face to face activity.

The key strategies on organising and campaigning, and the linked plans agreed at last week’s GEC will put us in a strong position to up the ante when, strategically, the time is right.

Sectarianism cannot be allowed to derail our membership campaigns

The GEC has in the last 6 weeks built on existing policy, and the new Left Unity led GEC agreed a number of recommendations at last week’s first full meeting that will help to implement these policies.

Despite these positive steps, and the need to unify our membership to move forward in our campaigning against an irresponsible employer, one which is hellbent on implementing the hostile and draconian policies of this Tory government, we have seen the Socialist Party dominated Broad Left Network (BLN) continue to sow division.

At a time when we must maximise unity, BLN are producing material that bears no resemblance to reality, with unnecessary and unjustified criticism of the LU leadership being the main feature, refusing to acknowledge that everything being put forward by them as ‘additional demands’, was a rehash of existing union policy, proposed by Left Unity and previously agreed by last year’s GEC.

Of course there is no mention of the Group Organising Plan, Branch Campaign Plan or Sectoral Pay Group Campaign Plan – all proposed by the LU leadership and agreed at last week’s GEC – in the BLN material. Just the false narrative that this leadership wants to do nothing to support our members. We should all be shocked and saddened that such important decisions have been omitted from an article purporting to be about a meeting of the DWP Group Executive, but sadly this is all too commonplace, symptomatic of the political degeneration of some.

It must be baffling to many members as to why the BLN faction continue to produce article after article, focusing their opposition and vitriol towards our union leadership, at both national and DWP group level, rather than the real enemy – the Tory government.

Left Unity have a proud tradition of being an open, democratic, socialist organisation, one that welcomes debate and embraces the diverse opinions that members have on a variety of matters. It is this healthy debate that saw PCS become unrecognisable from its predecessor unions, Left Unity having defeated a rabid, undemocratic right-wing leadership, transforming PCS into one of the most progressive and socialist trade unions in our movement.

This was only made possible by welcoming debate and the airing of differences, whilst ultimately understanding who our real enemy is – the successive right-wing governments who impose horrendous conditions on our members and invoke oppressive policies across society.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with disagreement and alternative strategies, but we all have a responsibility to ensure they are based on legitimate, not manufactured, differences.

Left Unity call for unity!

Now is not the time for disingenuous and destructive actions, it is the time to put aside any political, or sectarian, differences and collectively work in the best traditions of our movement, to build a campaign on pay that can win for members, while ensuring we maximise the pressure on DWP to keep our members safe.

The desire by some to bring down Left Unity, and the current leadership, must not be placed above our members’ needs. Winning for our members must be our ultimate goal.

Left Unity, including the GEC leadership, are totally committed to a united approach and call on others to join us in building a positive campaign, to work with us in the best interests of our members.

Martin Cavanagh

DWP Group President (in a personal capacity)