Former Ofsted leader shows the growing dangerous attitude toward Public Sector workers
On 26th February the Independent reported that the Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former chief inspector of schools, said that teachers need to show a “similar commitment” to medical professionals, who in some cases have “sacrificed their lives.”
This statement is not only worrying for its demand for teachers, vital public workers who have done everything possible to continue to educate our children throughout the pandemic, to put their lives at even greater risk but also that the sacrifices and deaths in the NHS and Care professions are not only acceptable they are to be expected.
The right to self determination is crucial for our collective empowerment against discrimination and patriarchal systems.
For the past couple of years, we have been celebrating Women’s History Month in addition to International Women’s Day – our herstories are important in documenting our struggles for women equality and creating a positive legacy for the future.
Women’s History Month started in the USA and although the first Women’s History Month in the USA took place over 100 years ago it is still a relatively new observance in the UK.
The sight of people queuing for a foodbank in the snow recently has once again highlighted the crisis of poverty that exists in this country.
Even on parliamentary measurements 11 million people were in ‘relative low income’, that’s 17% of the population in 2019. That puts 2.8 million children, 20% of all children, in relative low income. Child Poverty Action Group put that figure at 4.2 million children.
Underneath these crude figures lie broken lives, children who will wake up hungry and underperform at school, people in multi occupier households which are being hit particularly hard by coronavirus, people who can’t heat their houses, increased levels of domestic violence, the list is endless.
Like many other activists in the trade union movement, I’m involved in Stand Up to Racism (SUtR), and over the last few weeks I’ve been convening meetings in Edinburgh, in order to build for a local event on UN Anti-Racism Day, 20th March.
This year, there is no let up in the challenges faced by anti-racists, with politicians and the media continuing to use racism in their attempts to divide opposition in response to the government’s mishandling of the pandemic. We have seen the stoking up of Islamophobia with the scapegoating of refugees and migrants.
PCS believe that no person with a period should be caught short and that period products should be free in workplace toilets the same way that toilet paper and soap are made available. And even though most of our members are currently working from home, which a Left Unity led union fought for, I believe it’s important to remember that the period dignity campaign encompasses so much more than the fight for free tampons or towels. It’s about unity. It’s about sisterhood. The call for ‘Period Dignity’ is about smashing the stigma and breaking the silence surrounding something that is so very natural. From menstruation to menopause and everything in between, we need to keep talking about it, all of it.
The Period Dignity Campaign which was moved by DWP Glasgow branch at National Conference 2018, very quickly started to gain momentum and our union (along with the various Women’s Advisory and Equality Committees) continued to highlight the importance of this campaign across our workplaces and beyond.
In May 2018 Celtic Football Club took the decision to provide the right to free sanitary products for fans. This campaign was set up by 3 football fans, all of which are working class women. Celtic, a club who have long been committed to working class values and set up with the purpose of alleviating poverty in the East end of Glasgow, were the first football club in the UK to install free dispensaries in the stadium toilets. 110 clubs across the UK have since followed suit.
As an organiser for my branch and regional organiser for DWP North East I’ve participated in many recruitment events for new staff and existing staff. The method was simple and imparted to me by several ‘old hats’ during TU inductions and events. “Look them in the eyes. Tell them about how brilliant PCS is, give them some pens, hand out some forms, collect them once they are completed” It seemed easy enough.
New staff inductions were normally conducted in a dreary training room which TU were invited to as part of the new staff induction to the department.
Invariably we would be allowed to talk to the recruits but only after HASSRA and the Charity for civil servants had already extolled the benefits of joining their club. On many occasions we would be asking them to fill out direct debits or salary deduction forms for the third time that day and glazed eyes told us that they were not really getting it.
To be fair I did get used to it and every now and again during spells of DWP recruitment I would toddle off to the training room with a clutch of forms, lanyards and pens to talk to the new staff. Obviously DWP recruitment, like most departments, has been virtually non-existent for several years’ now, so events to recruit existing staff became more prevalent.