Supporting Black members during the coronavirus pandemic

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.

They shamelessly clap for our NHS and Public workers who week in week out put their lives on the line during this pandemic and then tell the same public workers there is no money for a decent pay rise and put millions back on a pay freeze. Remember the £21 million I told you above, paid without regard for public spending restraints.

Which brings me to PCS Union and our members, I am so proud of our Union when this pandemic started last March, the Union quickly redeployed our full-time officers to support members and thousands of members received a call from PCS to see how they were or if they were in need of help and support. Ours is a Union committed to being members led and we have shown during this pandemic our commitment to being there for our members. The Union ensured that engagement with members didn’t stop because we couldn’t meet; this was done online through platforms like Zoom.

In my role as Chair of the National Black Members Committee, we delivered online sessions to provide reassurance and support to Black and Asian members who are more receptive to getting the virus and it being more deadly. We ensured our annual Black members Seminar wasn’t cancelled but held on zoom in October. We with the support of Mark Serwotka and Fran Heathcote had two Facebook Live session looking at supporting Black members during coronavirus pandemic, underrepresentation, Black History Month and support available for our members.

In DWP the GEC put supporting black members at the heart of negotiating with management, for the first ever such instance they were successful in having a BME risk assessment for BAME staff in DWP – This helped reps across the country to challenge absurd management decisions to refuse members working from home resulting in thousands to get the equipment so that they can work from and ensured those shielding were helped and supported.

As a PCS rep for nearly 20 years my passion has been supporting and defending our members, now more than ever we continue to need a strong GEC to continue the impressive record of supporting members.

As we look to the future, we are ready to battle to get a decent pay rise and hold this Tory Government accountable for their failures during this pandemic.

We are going to reorganise our structures so we cement this supportive approach across our movement. Now more than ever we need strong trade unions, together we will stand for our members and together we will win.

Mohammed Shafiq works in DWP, has been an activist for 19 years and is Chair of the PCS National Black Members Committee and is writing this blog in a personal capacity.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.