Over 600 members attended 10 lunch time rallies across PCS regions and nations, held on Friday 29th of January. The rallies were held as part of our National Pay Campaign #FairPayDay responding to the public sector pay freeze which comes after over 10 years of austerity and pay freezes and caps. Speakers at each rally included local MPs Chris Stephens, Chair of the PCS Parliamentary Group, Honorary Chair, John McDonnell , Zarah Sultana, Rachel Hopkins, Kate Osborne, Paula Barker, Richard Burgon, Beth Winter, Tonia Antoniazzi, Stephen Farry, Claire Hanna , Kerry McCarthy alongside the General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary and National President and Vice Presidents.
Four IOPCC PCS union members made an extraordinary educational trip to Krakow and Auschwitz in October 2019 and we wanted to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day with our thoughts on the trip. We joined members from Unite, Unison, FBU, NEU and UCU who brought groups of their students on the trip. There were also anti-fascist activists whose family members had died at Auschwitz or survived to be sent to slave camps. It was a chance for all of us to really live the organisations’ ideals of making a difference and being inclusive, by learning about a dark point in history and sharing our experiences with others.
An introductory solidarity message from Jeremy Corbyn about the importance of opposing the rise of the far-right across Europe today was followed by historian David Rosenberg talking about Polish Jewish life and resistance in the 1930s. He drove home a strong sense of the diverse culture, politics and languages of Jewish people in Poland before World War Two.
The next day was spent on a walking tour from the old Jewish cemetery (now restored after its desecration by the Nazis) to Kazimierz, the heart of the old Jewish quarter. We saw the Old Synagogue, market squares and the alleys where Steven Spielberg filmed Schindler’s List. Whilst we learned about the widespread anti-Semitism we also heard about the courage of Polish Catholics who tried to help their Jewish friends and neighbours, adopting children, giving food and cigarettes or hair dye to help people escape. Our tour ended in the Ghetto from where so many were deported to extermination or slave camps. It was a truly sobering experience.
Teacher and long standing UAF activist Anna Gluckstein gave a talk on why the Holocaust happened and we discussed what we had seen and how the Nazis created a terror state.
We spent Saturday in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camps. Our excellent Polish tour guides explained the brutality and murders there in heart-breaking detail. We saw the gas chambers and crematoria, where the Nazis tried to hide their crimes. Buildings hold murdered people’s possessions piled high to the ceiling. It is difficult to describe the impact of such a place especially when experienced with those who have such a personal connection to the terrible events that occurred there. We were able to join a reflection session after this shocking and gruelling experience, which helped many of us process what we had seen.
From a Polish anti-fascist we learnt how serious the situation currently is in Poland, where the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party is influenced by the far-right and some mayors have declared their towns to be ‘LGBT free’ zones. There was also inspiring news about ordinary people building anti-racist and pro-LGBT events, including a march against racism and fascism on 11 November 2019.
Our final talk was by Lorna Brunstein. She told us about growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust as her grandmother Sarah and her mother Esther were both at Auschwitz. Sarah was murdered at the camp. Esther survived, was sent to Belson camp and later became an anti-fascist campaigner in Britain. It would have been impossible not to be inspired by the lives of these three courageous and impactful women.
The trip left us angry and grieving for all that we lost to Nazi brutality but inspired by resistance and moral courage in terrible circumstances. We were strengthened with ideas to build the anti-fascist movement in our workplaces and want to help ensure the catastrophe of the Holocaust never happens again.
The trip in 2020 had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. But we were still able to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 at work today with an online meeting with David Rosenberg who talked about the role of trade unionists in opposing racism and fascism in World War Two and today.
By Nathifa Brewster, Sarah Ensor, Patricia Furphy and Lauren White.
Government ministers are coming under fire for management’s role in a mass COVID outbreak at DVLA offices in Wales. Pressure from the bosses is to blame. PCS members must fight to put workers in control.
Due to the catastrophic irresponsibility of DVLA senior management, over 500 workers have been infected, making this the biggest workplace coronavirus outbreak so far in the UK. Already, it has been confirmed that one DVLA worker has died from the virus.
Urgent action is needed to put a stop to this criminal negligence, which puts profits ahead of workers’ lives.
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.