PCS Strikers Join with Unions in Liverpool to say ‘Enough is Enough!’

On Saturday, as PCS members from Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) took their sixth day of strike action in the fight for better pay, Liverpool saw a mass demonstration by unions, and activists from across the region as thousands attended the Enough is Enough strike rally organised by the RMT.

As the organisers prepared the marchers to set off, our PCS members marched from the picket line to join them, arriving to cheers of support and shouts of solidarity as PCS banners and flags were held high.

The rally was organised by RMT Union as they move again into industrial action against the attacks on working conditions, the holding down of pay, and job insecurity, TSSA were also taking action the same day against low pay and working conditions.

The rally moved to St Georges Hall where speakers from unions and community groups called for unity and solidarity, as we build to move en masse to take our fight to the government and the bosses. The calls resonated with the crowd as they began the chant ‘enough is enough, enough is enough!’

PCS Deputy President Martin Cavanagh of PCS Left Unity made a rousing speech as he brought solidarity to the striking unions and all workers in struggle, highlighting that PCS members’ pay has fallen 20% behind inflation since 2010, creating a cost of living crisis. Martin also highlighted the pensions robbery, the risk of redundancies in Civil Service as Government come after our redundancy terms. As companies make record profits and huge dividends are paid out to shareholders the working class are expected to take hit after hit. Giving a shout out from the top of the FBU fire engine to our HGS strikers in the crowd, and a rallying cry ahead of our statutory ballot in September where our union will join others in the fight as we too say enough is enough, Martin told the crowd PCS will stand shoulder to shoulder with all workers as workers united will never be defeated.

Eddie Dempsey RMT Senior Assistant General Secretary began his contribution looking back to the unity of our class in the general strike of 1911, recognising that RMT was born from that struggle on the very cobbles at St Georges Hall where the crowd now stood – a telegram was sent telling transport workers to ‘strike now, loyalty to each will mean liberty for all’ and it is that unity that wins for workers. Moving to ask the crowd to think of people they know, family, people they love, struggling with low wages, rotten landlords, no social care, as how we act now will determine whether we live in dignity in old age, whether there will be jobs and houses, an education system and a health service, because all of those services are in the spotlight. We must turn the tide, fight to protect our NHS, to protect our services, to nationalise industry and utilities, as those services are safer in our hands than in the hands of profiteers.

Every speaker gave inspiration to the crowd, and everyone in attendance is clearly ready for the fight back. The message that ran through the day was that enough is enough, and we are ready to fight for what is rightfully ours. PCS Left Unity members are working to build within our membership to that end. We have our national ballot beginning 26th September and we must ensure we have spoken to every single member to ensure that they understand the importance of this ballot and that we have their ballot address.

We cannot lose this, anything other than a massive win will mean devastation for PCS members and their families, and a certain decline in the services we provide. So let’s win this PCS! In the words of Eddie Dempsey, we do what we do for our families and our loved ones, we must fight as if their lives depend on it – because they do!

Perth Prime Minister Hustings – Scottish People Reject the Tory Freakshow

The Tories don’t like Scotland, this much was evident when they experimented and introduced the hated Poll Tax a year before introducing it into the UK, and has been more evident since.

They understand they can be no more than an opposition party in Scotland and it truly galls them that people don’t rally round images like former Scottish leader Ruth Davidson adorned with a union jack on top of a tank (nouveau William of Orange on a white charger?), where they have to crawl to base sectarian anti-nationalism to retain a political foothold in Scotland.

The vast majority of Scottish people reject that right-wing agenda and have shown that by corralling Nigel Farage in a pub to be extracted by the police, to demonstrations for every Tory Minister who have dared to cross the border for some by-election photo opportunity in some remote undisclosed location on the fly – to be met with the cry of “Tories Out” or more harsher rebukes.

Perth nailed that track record, perhaps not with numbers (around 800), but with a fervour and political enthusiasm that included a diverse variation of Scottish working class people.

At the Protest, called by Perth Against Racism, there were speakers from Trade Unions, Human Rights Groups, Anti-Racist Groups, Independence platforms all calling for unity against the Tory Party’s anti-working class racist agenda. The word most used was probably “inhumane” in relation to the Pushback policy and Rwanda flights, but also for the many people starving now, who the foodbanks can’t support or will die this winter because of energy prices and the cost of living crisis.

In truth the Tory leadership contest, where they have hijacked a willing media into the longest party political right-wing freakshow ever… has only consolidated activists’ momentum towards removing the Tories, building unifying bridges where historical political divides (on the left) have sometimes been elusive.

The event was a triumph and Catriona Mackay (Perth Against Racism), compered the event brilliantly adding to the listed speakers and opening-up for speakers from other organisations present who felt compelled to direct their rage at the Tory’s inhumane policies. All in unity, often quoting points made by previous speakers.

Scotland’s newspaper blunt instrument equivalent to the Sun, the Daily Record, carries the headline “Tories pelted with eggs ahead of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss debate in Perth”, the hyperbole somewhat undermined by the accompanying picture of smiling protestors, some families, holding placards welcoming refugees and migrants, supporting railworkers, Black Lives Matter and calling for Pay Rises. Yes, eggs were thrown, but there was a bit more going on than omelettes. Yes, some demonstrators got agitated by the spectacle of some powerful, some wannabees and privileged people full of self-importance arrogantly parading into the Perth Concert Hall – outcome minor tussling. After-all you can’t have a Protest without a bit of tussling, you have gotta have a tussle or two. No-one was arrested, enough said. By far the hardest punch thrown was the thorough blasting of the chants “Refugees are Welcome Here”, “Tories Out” and “F#ck the Tory’s” from protestors, and the robust political points from speakers.

That list of speakers included Perth Against Racism, PCS, GMB, STUC Black Workers Committee, Unite, SUTR, Afghan Human Rights Foundation and an NHS Activist Plus many more! In addition to the speakers there was outstanding music from Alan Carberry and Sophie Stanisforth who rocked the protest between speakers making political points and protestors jeering the Tories, both of whom threw a bit of well-aimed abuse the Tories way.

Every speaker was welcomed enthusiastically, every speaker called for working class unity (obviously some did not use the phrase “working class”, but you get the gist), every speaker made hard hitting points on the Cost of Living Crisis and deaths which will come leaving blood on the hands of the Tories, Inhumane Tory Policies and of course flights to Rwanda and other breaches of human rights perpetrated by the Tories. As a Left Unity NEC member, I was overcome by the protests response to PCS role in the legal challenge to Rwanda flights, warmly supported by those attendant, with appreciative remarks coming from other speakers.

Despite there being transport difficulties (weather related), my train to Perth was cancelled and I had to get a replacement bus to Perth, there were up to 800 at the Protest – no mean feat for a rather out of the way Scottish destination of a working day! Special shout out to the RMT workers at Glasgow Queen Street, who when they found out I was travelling to the Perth Protest as a union speaker quickly ushered me on to the first replacement bus they could and also a shout out to Glasgow Against Racism who let me on their bus back to Glasgow near the end of the event.

The icing on the cake is the fact that the Protest has left in its wake many f#cked off Tories, where the event could be characterised as a Political Protest of real significance, with a small Tory hustings tagged on.

Hope this has given you a bit of a flavour of the Perth Protest.

Fittingly I will end on the call for every PCS activist and member to work hard on getting ballot ready and turning out that YES, YES vote in the ballot – Enough is Enough, Tories Out!

John Jamieson (NEC personal capacity)

Solidarity with CWU strikes

Assuming the Tory austerity agenda of the last 12 years didn’t affect your regular route, it feels a bit like waiting for a bus doesn’t it? You spend an age waiting for an organised fightback by workers for better pay and conditions, then suddenly loads turn up at once.

On 29th July and 1st August, 40,000 CWU members in BT and Openreach took strike action for the first time in 35 years and PCS members joined in solidarity with them on picket lines up and down the country. Solidarity on the picket line is important. It’s not just a photo-op for social media likes; it means that at a grassroots level we network and engage with workers in other sectors, we share ideas and experiences from current and past struggles. We listen and we learn, gauge public opinion – resoundingly in favour since you asked judging by the honking of horns and positive comments from passers-by.

It shows we have had their backs in this dispute and make no mistake, they will have our backs should we strike later.

Many of the struggles and grievances of CWU members are ours. Like many in PCS, CWU members were classed as key workers during the pandemic. None of what we did and still do would be possible without the hard work and dedication of CWU members. While we were working at home delivering benefits and furlough money, or processing DBS checks for job applicants, CWU members provided, maintained and delivered the infrastructure 24/7 to enable us to work remotely, to deliver pay and benefits, to check in on our loved ones remotely, to shop remotely, to “attend” funerals, to have Zoom quizzes! etc.

Like many of us in PCS they are also low paid with many claiming in-work benefits to get by. Like us they are fighting against real terms pay cuts in the face of rising inflation fueled by profiteering rather than wages and attacks on their pensions and demanding a 10% pay rise for workers which, like us, they deserve.

Last year, BT Group made a profit in excess of £1.3 billion which was more than enough to meet an inflation matching pay rise. What did BT do? They imposed a flat £1,500.00 pay rise for their workforce while their CEO, Philip Jansen, received a £3.5 million pay package, effectively a 32% pay rise. To add insult to injury, £700 million was paid out to shareholders. It is also reported that at least one BT office set up a food bank to assist employees, earning the CEO the nickname “Food Bank Phil”. A further £400m profit was announced for the first quarter of this year just hours before the second day of strike action. It is hardly surprising then that 95.8% of Openreach engineers and 91.5% of BT members voted for industrial action.

This is where I sound a note of urgent caution about what we can learn from our CWU friends. As you are probably aware, BT Group also includes the mobile phone giant EE who achieved union recognition in 2019. EE members were also balloted and a whopping 95.5% of them who voted were also in favour of industrial action. Unfortunately for them, they fell short of the 50% threshold by just 8 votes meaning they could not join their colleagues in BT and Openreach in taking strike action. They were crushed but galvanised and they will learn from this and so must we in PCS.

Some of our members are keen to get out of the blocks and ballot for strike action right now if not weeks ago. This is understandable but the simple truth is we are not ballot ready yet – individual branches and departments may be but this has to be a concerted and unified message to Government across the Civil Service. Anti-union legislation by successive Tory governments places bumps and barriers in the road such as postal ballots only for industrial action and the 50% turnout thresholds.

In our consultative ballot in March we may have sent a strong message to Government of our willingness to take industrial action for fair pay but turnout was 45.2 %. There is work to be done and currently there is a massive push within PCS to ensure member records are bang up to date with names, addresses, work locations and grades correct to maximise turnout in a postal ballot and fend off the risk of any legal challenges.

If I may stretch the earlier bus analogy a little further, the PCS bus is currently in the depot being serviced to ensure it is roadworthy and resilient but there is much to learn from the experience of EE. Among our membership are the tools and resources to do this so if a rep or branch official contacts you to update records, please be nice and confirm them. It could be the difference between having insulting pay deals imposed on us or reaching that 50% threshold that will force them to listen. The ballot opens on 26th September and closes 6 weeks later.

You can show your solidarity to CWU by emailing your MP courtesy of an easy to complete template which only takes a minute to complete (link below)


Dylan Wilson