Treat PCS Interserve strikers at the FCO with respect

PCS members working for private company, Interserve, at the Foreign Office (FCO) are taking a month’s strike action, the longest in the history of FCO.

All that they are asking for is to be treated with a bit of respect. The Foreign Secretary is responsible for every worker employed on FCO premises but refuses to get involved.

Going on strike for a month is a brave thing to do, many of these workers had never been on strike before, they are low paid and they are not treated well.

For some, English is not their first language, we calculated on the picket line on Wednesday that there are members from over 15 different countries involved. These members deserve our full support.

Interserve do not treat these members well. They refuse to recognise PCS, changed their contracts without agreement or buy-out, won’t give them proper payslips, didn’t take part in ACAS talks in a constructive way, reduced working hours for cleaners who took part in strike action, made some colleagues redundant since the strikes began, including two of our reps, and have spent a fortune on paying others to break the strike instead of getting around the table and trying to reach agreement. 

These members feel that they are treated as second class citizens and are asking for your support. Their demands are very simple, this dispute could be settled immediately but the employer appears to have ‘dug its heals in’!

The picket lines are loud and vibrant, with vuvuzelas at full blast! There are multiple entrances to cover but luckily PCS membership has quadrupled since they began this campaign and spirits remain high, even though it is often very cold.

On the picket line this morning, one member was telling us how the change from monthly to daily pay has left him out of pocket. This shoddy treatment has to end.

Next week, on Tuesday 11th February, to coincide with the TUC’s Heart Unions week, I am looking forward to hosting our ‘Solidarity day’ where we will hear from a number of speakers including TUC GS, Frances O’Grady and PCS GS, Mark Serwotka.

There is lots of support from other unions, MPs and local campaigners and at the Central London reps’ meeting this week, we discussed asking branches to ‘adopt a strike day’ when each branch could go along to the picket line on a given day to show solidarity and support. Some branches are now considering this.

Left Unity members in PCS fully support these low paid members in their struggle, they are only asking for what most of us take for granted.

Building the union has given them the opportunity to stand up for themselves and we will continue to stand with them in solidarity every step of the way.

Fran Heathcote

Developing our National Campaign

PCS now faces a very difficult 5 years ahead. Anyone not convinced about that should just ‘google’ Dominic Cummings’ comments about the future of the civil service.

We are in the process of rebuilding our parliamentary group and will work with MPs, inside and outside Parliament, to build support for our campaign on pay, pensions and the CSCS. We will continue to assess the situation, consulting our members at every stage as we move forward.

The protection of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) is of massive importance to all members, a good example being those in HMRC who are facing a hugely uncertain future. It is PCS, and the campaign that we have continued for 4 years now, that has successfully defended the 2010 terms, and resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of pounds in our members’ pockets.

We have to recognise the very real concerns of all members, those affected in HMRC and in all other departments, and must do all that we can to protect them, and that means building a campaign that can defend them.

Linking the issues of pay, pensions and CSCS is completely logical at a time when we have conference policy on all of them and they all converge to see us in a potential dispute as early as the spring of 2020.

We are not seeking to build a long list of issues, or include issues that affect some groups differently, rather to unite our members over a clear set of demands. Let’s remember that the aim here is not just to win a ballot (although that is essential), but in fact to win real gains for our members. The issues above cannot be resolved at delegated level and must therefore form our national campaign. We don’t want to just take what we can get using a ‘shopping list’ of issues, we want to win the best deals possible and that means a joined-up campaign.

Members will have seen some recent material which attempts to distort the facts about the NEC’s political strategy – namely Marion Lloyd’s assertion, on behalf of the Socialist Party front, Broad Left Network, in her bid to be PCS president that ‘unlike her opponents, she is against Labour Party affiliation’. This is of course, not factually correct because Labour Party affiliation is not supported by the NEC, by Mark Serwotka or by me, nor is it conference policy.

It is not Left Unity policy and this repeated lie seeks to paint a picture of a PCS leadership supporting affiliation, to appeal to the most conservative, and even right-wing, elements within PCS as a further distraction. Nothing could be further from the truth. Left Unity will continue to follow conference policy, with industrial and political strategies to defend and advance the interests of our members.

The PCS NEC did agree, in the run-up to the General Election, to support the election of a Corbyn-led Labour government, based on their policy commitments, as we believed that would be in the best interests of our members.

An initial assessment of the consultation that was carried out in regions and branches, shows support for the policy of calling for a Labour vote in England and Wales. The result in Scotland also confirmed our position not to call for a vote for Labour there, but instead urging members to vote to keep the Tories out.

All regions except Northern Ireland responded, and in answer to the question ‘should the union recommend a vote for Labour in the General Election?’, all except Scotland answered yes. The only equality committee to respond was Proud, who answered the same. Branches were split along geographic lines, with Scottish branches opposing a Labour vote and the majority of branch responses in England and Wales supporting it.

To somehow seek to turn this into a debate over Labour Party affiliation is just wrong. It isn’t, and it never was.

The job of a responsible leadership now is to move forward  with as much unity as possible, taking into account all views and building a joined-up campaign amongst regions, branches and groups. I see that as my main role as I lead the National Executive Committee. We need to be careful not to descend into personal abuse or manufacture narrow political differences, as some seem intent on doing.  Members have chosen Mark Serwotka to lead PCS for the next 5 years and it is important that we all respect the democratic process, however you voted.

I am proud to work with Mark to deliver our policies and will continue to do so. Let’s not get distracted from protecting our members’ interests, that is, after all, what we are elected to do.

Left Unity now has a list of candidates with the commitment, drive and experience to lead PCS through the period ahead. We have not sought to sew division, or poach candidates from any other groupings. All of our candidates have committed to work together in the best interests of members, united by a willingness to fight for members and work together with our General Secretary in our members’ interests and not those of any external grouping.

We ask for your support and we ask that you demonstrate that by nominating our candidates at your branch AGM. We owe it to our members to put all of our efforts into ignoring the distractions and winning on the issues that matter to them.

Fran Heathcote

Fran Heathcote is standing as President as part of the Left Unity slate

DWP Group Black Members Committee organising report

We all know following the general election that worker rights are going be under heavy fire. We could do the ‘batten down the hatches’ thing but it of vital importance that we come out fighting but with a strategic battle plan. So it was good that the festive season followed the vote for much needed respite and to reflect on what we need to do as a union and as activists in our communities. Most of us are aware that hate crimes have risen in some areas by up to 80 percent and rather than abating we see a rise in overt incidences of hate in the civil service and wider society.

Along with the DWP Group Equality Officer, Bridget Corcoran, we produced articles marking International Women’s Day, Ramadan, Diwali, Christmas, Black and Disability History Month, Hanukah and Holocaust Memorial Day to raise awareness and to break down barriers that exist the Civil Service as well as outside of it.

The strength of a union is often within its density and its activists who should represent the membership. This is something that our (GBMC) and Regional Equality Reps have focused on over the last few months: How do we increase activity and density within the group? To this end we considered holding events in different regions but were mindful of the costs involved. With this in mind we approached the Union Learning co-ordinator to check whether our ideas were feasible and got the go ahead. We held our first event in London as it is one of our most diverse areas followed by Birmingham where the second event is planned for 26 February – details here.

The London event attracted several members who are not active and attendees were given an update on the national campaign by our President, Fran Heathcote, and a presentation on organising with information about the advocate role.

They also did a session on creative writing, this was a learning event after all, with the exception of the Group Equality Officer, Regional Equality Officer and I who had some minor creative differences (they are divas!), about dark and stormy nights and gentle breezes.

There was a general discussion about how we challenge the rise in hate crimes and attacks on the working class as a unit: a whole; what could we do as a union and what they could do themselves. It was a lively debate, rather impassioned at times, which is a good thing as it shows the hatches aren’t down; the periscope isn’t up: We are not peeping out from the ‘sunken place’.

We are planning more events, open to members and non-members, and our aim is to tailor these events to the demographic of the region. Using PCS Learning as a way of empowering our members and engaging them with our campaigns is a key part of our agenda.

Our members from diverse communities and backgrounds are readying ourselves for the fight and PCS Left Unity will stand with them side by side.

Annette Rochester – Left Unity NEC member and DWP group vice President

Further anti racism work:

Annette is one of the Democracy Alliance NEC candidates