PCS members at the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) had to fight for the pay remit for 2020/21 that was signed off last week.
Each year since 2015 we have got our pay rise later and later but we always got it before Christmas. But this year, it became clear that the Home Secretary hadn’t signed in December and didn’t show any intention of signing at all. Management said we would probably only get 2% backdated to July but lots of us were depending on it to help pay for Christmas. Many of us were disappointed but some were furious and felt it showed no respect for us, even though we had all kept the organisation going through the pandemic. We had moved our members’ meetings online in March last year and have been holding four meetings a month. Often these meetings were about internal staff problems of coping with home schooling and safety issues but we also had speakers from the NEU to explain why schools needed to close and a Manchester University student talking about their occupation.
Supporting OCS security officers on the MOJ Contract in their fight for the real living wage and improved terms and conditions
by Fran Heathcote
PCS members working for OCS on the HMCTS Security contract are currently being balloted over their willingness to take industrial action, following receipt of an insulting pay offer.
In the last few days, as a member of the NEC Outsourced Workers Committee, I have been contacting members, using our new digital technology to ensure that they have had a ballot paper and that they have voted. We do this to make sure that we can achieve the 50% turnout in the ballot, and because these members are low-paid and are really pleased to speak to someone from their union during the campaign to answer any questions that they have.
The past ten months have tested us all as the world deals with the increasing threat from the coronavirus, families have been devastated with the loss of loved ones, loss of employment, poverty and the struggle to deal with their mental health. We have watched a Tory Government ignore the medical and scientific evidence to artificially tamper with the lockdown restrictions; leading to more people dying and getting the virus. They have awarded contracts to supporters of the Conservative Party without any regard to integrity and screening of the bids through a transparent process.
We have seen the chaos of the test and trace initiative, the scandal of public workers putting their lives on the line and not having sufficient PPE. Just imagine the wasted £21 million awarded to a middle man, Michael Saiger who set up a business to supply PPE, with hospitals and care homes in return complaining about the lack of PPE. You get an idea of the Tories obsession in helping their chums.
Nobody can cease to be impressed by the way the NEU has recently organised in relation to its members. The Government’s attempt to keep schools open, and in doing so put teachers lives at risk, has opened the question of using Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act, and collective action. But contrary to some criticism, our leadership in the PCS has been using Section 44, albeit on a smaller scale.
Driving Examiners (who are PCS members) have been expected to carry on with Driving Tests throughout this pandemic where no social distancing can take place in a car, sitting with people they have never met – up to six times daily. The instruction and advice was to keep ventilation circulating by opening the window of a car, keeping the candidate’s vehicle clean, and wearing a face covering. None of these measures have taken away the fear that many PCS members have, particularly so given the new strain of virus which is far more contagious. All of this has caused huge stress and anxiety to our members.
On 15 December a Parliamentary debate took place regarding Civil Service pay. The debate was secured by the PCS pay petition reaching over 100,000 signatures, with both the petition and subsequent commons debate, important strands of the national campaign PCS has been pursuing under the Left Unity leadership of the union; the aim to secure a real pay increase for our members after years of government pay restraint.
A key component of this campaign being the need to engage with members on the importance of national pay and the broader campaign that needs to be won, if we are to succeed in overturning the Treasury and Government’s pay freeze. The fact hundreds of members and reps gave their own time to help contact members at home, via text using new technology brought into the Union, meant the PCS message encouraging members to get involved, sign the petition and share it with friends and family, was delivered quicker than ever before. This magnificent effort was crucial in signatures for the petition moving past the 100,000 mark, something Left Unity’s political opponents were dismissing as unachievable only a matter of weeks earlier.
In early December PCS’ Young Members’ Network hosted a well-attended panel session on the Green New Deal and the role of trade unions. The UK is gripped by a climate emergency, a pandemic, and a global recession. Bushfires across the world have reminded us that climate change is not some distant threat but is costing lives and livelihoods in the here and now.
Our wide-ranging discussion covered the nature of the climate emergency and the practical steps young trade unionists can take to address it. A Green New Deal – large-scale public investment in decarbonising society – would not only help avert climate catastrophe; it would also stimulate the economy and revive many deindustrialised communities.
In recent months there has been an increased appreciation for public service workers, including PCS members.
As PCS lead negotiator covering the Surge and Rapid Response Team of apprentices within HMRC I have seen numerous examples where the work of PCS members has been deemed to be essential.
125 Surge Apprentices from across the UK will be deployed from today (4th January) to support UK Border Force with work relating to EU Transition at a number of UK ports. The work is deemed so essential that the staff are being permitted to undertake extensive travel. A team of over a dozen Surge Apprentices based in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire will be deployed to North Kent. The work is deemed so important that these staff are exempt from the current travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
This year’s Left Unity Annual Delegate Conference took place on Saturday 5th December from 12 noon to 4.00pm online.
Left Unity has a long political history in PCS, uniting the left and liberating PCS from a vicious right-wing bureaucracy led by Barry Reamsbottom who traded off many of the national bargaining areas that we are working hard to regain to empower PCS members at a national level against an extremely hostile employer in a fighting democratic Union.
Chairs Opening Remarks
The Conference started on a respectfully sombre note with Martin Cavanagh LUNC Vice Chair, Chairing Conference and making delegates aware of comrade Dave Bean’s (former President Revenue & Customs Group) passing during the night, where he commented on Dave’s and Simon Boniface’s contributions to Left Unity and called for a minute silence to be observed.
Martin’s introductions were brief recognising the change brought about by the restrictions imposed because of Covid-19 and welcoming delegates to the first online PCS Left Unity Conference.
Agreement of the Agenda
Conference Agreed the Agenda and Standing Orders for the meeting, which was different from hitherto, physical conferences with Statements from the LUNC on policy areas, but policy motions coming from the LU Regions.
It was agreed that there would be LUNC Statements on: –
The government continues with it’s catastrophic blundering in response to the rapid spread of the new variant of coronavirus. Despite Priti Patel claiming that they have always been ‘ahead of the curve’ the reality is that they have continually tailed behind it. This is no surprise, their priority from the outset has been the needs of businesses and the economy, not saving lives. The price has been tens of thousands of people losing their lives unnecessarily.
As the coronavirus first hit in March it was teachers, headteachers and parents who were ahead of the curve in closing their schools, the government eventually caught up and closed them all.
As the cases started to rise again in the Autumn and the government introduced their half hearted tiers system they steadfastly refused to close the schools and universities, despite mounting evidence that some of the fastest growing infection rates were to be found amongst young people.
As the rate of the virus spirals out of control the government announced that Secondary Schools around the country would have a 2 week break before returning on the 18th January. They also announced that some Primary Schools in London and the South East would remain closed. The method of selection was impenetrable, with some London boroughs with similar levels of cases being told to remain open.