We know that the world is upside down, but how abnormal does it have to be for the ‘Texas Cat Attorney’ to get more hits on YouTube than the moon landings? Jackie Weaver; the Britney Spears of Handforth Parish Council has endeared herself to the nation (apparently) for putting a couple of shouty old men into a Zoom waiting area, and it was very funny to watch an embarrassed academic fight off his excited toddler on a serious BBC interview about North Korean Politics. I suspect many of us are sick to the back teeth of having to tell people that they are ‘on mute’ and I am sure many of us wonder if it will ever be customary to dress the bottom half of the body in office attire again.
However, the shift to working from home and meeting online has opened a serious debate and it is one we are having in PCS and one we should be encouraging in our Branches and offices. When CCTV came in to Job Centres it was pretty comprehensive coverage, so that virtually each desk could be seen. My first experience of intrusive remote management was when some senior managers took it upon themselves to use the CCTV to make sure all the staff were wearing name badges (when things like that mattered). The union was fast to act on that one and got management to see that CCTV was not a tool to control us, but part of keeping us safe at work. But lately there appears to be a bit of ‘mission creep’ among many managers.
As a personal case rep for over 20 years, I have represented many cases of domestic violence and abuse for both male and female members, and have trained with the Police and Crime Commissioners office to become a DVA Champion in the North East Region. Details of Champions are held on a database and email updates are regularly sent out with information of services and advice.
I have supported members in our workplaces to navigate through the DWP policy on Domestic Violence and abuse, which has often been ignored or just simply was
unknown to line managers. I have ensured all safety issues have been explored, and
implemented and supported my members, and also line managers, to deal with the
situation as it unfolds.
In the picturesque town of Llangollen in north-east Wales, there’s a pub called The Bull. My Dad and I used to go there occasionally, and each time he’d say something like “this is our family’s pub, Matt.” What he meant by that was that one of our distant ancestors owned it; my great-great-great-grandfather I believe.
If you drive from Llangollen in the direction of Acrefair on the A539, then eventually you’ll come to a turning for the Bryn Howell Hotel on the right-hand side. The Bryn Howell is (or was) a popular venue for functions and the older part of it used to be the home of a local business owner. The lounge bar is in that part of the hotel, and again, my Dad would regularly tell me “your great-great-uncle plastered the ceiling in this room, son.” In truth, I cannot remember which relation was the plasterer, but it is nevertheless an impressive ceiling.
Paul Williams was invited to speak at a meeting hosted by People Before Profit in Swansea about the Covid outbreak in the DVLA.
“Thanks for arranging this meeting and I bring solidarity greetings from PCS to you all.
For those who may not know a vast majority of PCS members across the nations are currently working from home, that includes in my own area of DVSA where Driving Examiner members have been sent home, but as you may know obviously cannot work from home. That is testament to the work our PCS reps and officials have done in making sure our members are protected, and are safe.
However, there are a few areas where that has not been the case specifically in the Courts and of course in DVLA. And it shouldn’t be forgotten by the way, that our members don’t simply work for DVLA they are ultimately Government employees.
Following extensive negotiations with PCS, HMRC published its long-anticipated Pay and Contract Reform offer on 1st February.
The offer is time limited. In order for HMRC to be allowed to access the money, they must meet the timescales set out in the 2020 Cabinet Office Pay remit. This means that if the deal is not both accepted and money paid to staff by 31st March 2021, then the offer will be withdrawn and any increase will be constrained by the Cabinet Office cap of 2% for 20/21 and 0% for 21/22.
The offer is a complex package, which offers substantial pay increases across the board, and in line with longstanding PCS policy, is weighted towards the lowest paid. In addition, the offer contains real gains to terms and conditions for all staff, including those on CSEP terms, new recruits and future joiners, however, we recognise that the offer does contain some unwelcome changes for staff recruited or promoted before CSEP terms came into force.
Ministry of Justice staff are not notorious for wanting to go on strike at the drop of a hat. But current conditions in HM Courts and Tribunals Service are so bad that there is a demand from PCS union members for an adequate response to the dangers they face. Following the impressive engagement of teachers and school-workers that the National Education Union recently achieved (leading to a significant government climb-down and U-turn), it will be interesting to see if section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 also gets invoked on a mass scale in HMCTS.
Some areas of the MoJ have been well set up and workers have been using laptop computers and mobile phones to work flexibly (including from home) for years. Courts and Tribunals have been less fortunate: 70% of HMCTS staff have been required to continue going into workplaces since March 2020.
We celebrate this February and every February to inform and educate around a simple truth : LGBT+ people exist, have always existed and will forever exist. This month is used to profile figures from history that are not always known to the general population as being from our community. It has had good success in raising the profile of Alan Turing, for example, revealing narratives of oppression that can shock and dismay a naive heteronormative mind. We aim to gather recognition and understanding from the majority society. And to embrace our history and our present with pride – not to be merely tolerated, to have full equality and respect.
The simple act of identification as LGBT+ can inspire a sense of solidarity, an idea of shared culture and worth. An invaluable act when far too often, LGBT+ community history has been steeped in ridicule and discrimination. As socialists we should always align with the power of hidden stories and the strength of social history.
Russel T. Davies is an amazing writer. The characters he creates and the sense of time and place he evokes are so spot on. You can tell he is really writing about things that he understands. Just listening to friends rave about “It’s a Sin” and seeing their Facebook comments about how brilliant it is; how it made them laugh and cry and how the soundtrack takes them back, has convinced me that I can’t watch it. The reason I am unable to steel myself to watch it is because I just don’t feel capable of watching something so real about being LGBT in the 1980s. Television drama may be shocking enough, but the reality was much worse.
Fair enough it wasn’t all bad. I certainly made friends with people who remain friends to this day. In fact, I think it may even be true to say that I met a range of characters who I probably wouldn’t have met in today’s more inclusive society. Apart from Gay Bars there were little out of the way (usually seedy) pubs where you could often find LGBT folks, an array of sex workers, a few armed robbers and people from all over the globe having a whale of a time. But the only thing that united us really, was our otherness, being different was our common denominator.
Please nominate Left Unity candidates for the DWP group elections
Left Unity is a socialist organisation within PCS that has provided the leadership of the DWP group for two decades and has been at the forefront of the union’s response to the Covid pandemic.
WE HAVE KEPT MEMBERS SAFE AND BUILT THE UNION
Throughout the past year the Left Unity led GEC have fought to protect and keep members safe from Covid-19 by pressing for staff to work from home and by insisting on strong risk assessments to keep our offices safe. DWP management have been the worst in the civil service at providing the kit for staff to work from home but by successfully campaigning the GEC led and won a consultative ballot in our Jobcentres and UC service centres with 78% of members voting for action.