The COP 26 UN global climate summit, begins in Glasgow this weekend.
In recent weeks there has been a deluge of news coverage of climate issues and grand statements and promises from world leaders, alongside adverts from companies claiming to be green and articles telling us the best things to buy to ‘save the planet’, timed to coincide with the flurry of aircraft full of suited dignitaries landing in Scotland.
On 25th and 26th October I attended the 94th STUC Women’s Conference as a delegate for PCS. Having attended the conference many times before, this was my first as an NEC delegate, and the first (and hopefully last) one held online.
We had a full complement of LU delegates for our union and each of us took part in the debates on covid, COP26, women’s rights, disabled women, pay and women’s safety.
PCS members joined a solidarity protest against homophobic attacks in Birmingham on Thursday.
There have been a spate of attacks in the gay village area recently, with people being bottled and one person left unconscious.
The protest on Thursday drew several hundred people including many people from the LBGT+ community, trade unionists from the PCS, NEU, UCU and UNISON, local Labour councillors and campaigners. A wide range of people spoke condemning the attacks and expressing solidarity. Several speakers highlighted the rising tide of Transphobia and the need to resist it. In a moving speech two of the victims of these attacks spoke up and called for us all to stand together.
Throughout the pandemic this government has lurched from one catastrophe to another, always with the workers of this country paying the price, either financially or devastatingly with their health and even their lives. Tens of thousands of preventable deaths have occurred due to the failure of the Tory government to properly protect its citizens and as a direct result of decisions they have made. All while publicly awarding contracts to their friends and supporters, costing the tax payer billions for services that were never delivered, or at least not in full.
Whilst many PCS members attended the demonstration against the Tory Party Conference in defiance of austerity on Sunday 3rd October, I attended the 85th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street with my PCS flag. This event was important as the planned march by the British Union of Fascists under their leader, Oswald Mosley in 1936, was due to proceed. It was, initially, blocked by over 200,000 protesters from the Jewish and Irish communities that, initially, blocked Whitechapel High Street. As a result, Oswald Mosley’s 2,500 Black Shirts were outnumbered 10 to 1 and decided not to proceed with the march.
‘Climate justice is social justice’ as Greta Thurnberg said. PCS has to be involved in the fight for climate justice as we are embedded in the fight for social justice. On Saturday 18th September we joined with climate activists in Newcastle to raise awareness of the plight of our planet and the immediate need for action. People came together for a march and rally in the centre of the city to highlight the upcoming COP26 summit in November in Glasgow. It was an uplifting occasion with a wide range of activists from many areas of expertise. We learned that action needs to be taken now, that unions need to be at the forefront of change and that alliances across unions and pressure groups can get results. I had a representative from PCS DWP YMAC with me on the speakers platform, it was wonderful to show our unity by collaboration across the ages. This is an issue for all of us, for now and for future. We were proud to represent PCS, to meet sisters from other unions, on a great day for the fight for climate justice.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Driving Examiners, who are members of PCS, were subjected to delivering driving tests where social distancing could not be introduced within a car. It was only at the insistence of the Government with the two national lockdowns that Driving Examiners were finally sent home and driving tests were suspended. Even when this happened many of our Driving Examiner members volunteered to help deliver NHS staff to COVID centres, hospitals, or deliver medical equipment etc on a voluntary basis. Of course, our union also ensured those Examiners that were clinically extremely vulnerable were kept at home, given the lack of social distancing.