Let’s go all out to build the 1st February strike

With just a few days to go until our strike on 1st February, PCS branches up and down the country are working flat-out to make the action a big success.

New members are joining in droves, with membership going over 194,000 this week, the highest yet since before the withdrawal of checkoff, and our media profile and coverage are at an all-time high. Combining targeted action with all-member action has certainly given the media plenty to talk about, and all areas involved in targeted action so far have reported significant membership growth.

When the NEC met on 18th & 19th January, we agreed plans for further areas to target and this twin-track strategy, alongside national action when it will have the most impact, is not just the same old tired method which, although popular in terms of protest, had little impact on shifting the employer or the government. The NEC will be meeting again on 7th February to review the day, take stock and decide next steps. Groups that narrowly missed beating the threshold (like HMRC), are currently reballoting and should be in a position to join in soon, meaning an escalation of approximately 30,000 members joining the campaign. The government is in chaos now.   

Our strategy has proved popular with reps and members, when explained properly, and has certainly put PCS in the spotlight. Although understandably, the levy idea needed some explaining, and there were some attempts made to portray it as something it wasn’t, membership has not fallen in any significant way, in fact, overall, it is climbing fast.

Reps are reporting members feeling enthused by the idea of coming out on strike alongside other unions taking action, and whilst there is bound to be lots of attention on the teachers striking, and schools being closed, we are working hard to get PCS the attention we deserve on the day too. With so many workers striking together on the 1st, we need to make sure that we’ll be impossible to ignore.

The Left Unity leadership of PCS has been driving this campaign and we owe it to our members to make it the biggest success possible. With rallies planned in many towns and cities around the UK, many with PCS speakers, let’s make sure we have a vibrant presence at all of them.

PCS hasn’t taken national strike action since 2014. If you haven’t done this sort of thing before, and it all seems daunting, there is a lot of advice and guidance out there. Check the PCS website, or get in touch with more experienced reps and members about how to make the day a success. Don’t be intimidated by any manager telling you you have to notify your intentions, you don’t, and if you feel under pressure, just say you haven’t decided what you’re doing yet.

– Support your picket line, and if you can’t get to the one at your place of work, support another picket line, whether it’s a PCS one or organised by another union. Bring your kids, bring your pets, make some noise!

– Send a solidarity message. When workers are on strike, it really helps and boosts confidence to know that others support you, and you are not alone.

– Attend a rally or demo if there is one near to where you live – that will give you a real sense of the sheer size of the campaign against what this government is doing, and they can be great fun too.

-Send us your pictures and reports. Left Unity will be providing coverage of the day from as many areas as possible, whatever you’re doing, let us know about it! Email reports and pictures to pcsleftunity@gmail.com.

We really need to hear from you. Let’s work together to make February 1st a success and ensure that whatever is agreed next, it has your input and ideas, and that we have the maximum impact on this rotten government.

If you’re not yet a member of Left Unity, the socialist grouping within PCS, join us. We are working positively to build the biggest campaign and fightback in defence of PCS members, and in support of a strong, well-organised PCS.

We want to work with like-minded PCS activists to make sure that PCS remains a fighting, campaigning union, and that we build on everyone’s ideas to make the national campaign a success,

Beating the ballot threshold in so many areas was historic. It has put us in a great position. Let’s not squander that opportunity. Let’s build together for the 1st and beyond.

Please get in touch if you want to find out more about the work of Left Unity.

Left Unity led NEC calls all members strike – time to drive home our advantage

Birmingham border force strikers with FBU support

The Left Unity National Executive have declared an all member strike on Wednesday 1st February for all members with a live mandate following November’s ballot result.

The decision was taken following detailed discussion with other unions about the prospect of significant co-ordinated action in that date. While mass co-ordination isn’t possible at this stage, the TUC have called a day of protest against the Government’s latest attacks on workers rights to strike on the 1st, and there is an expectation that other unions will be taking action alongside PCS with possibly over half a million public sector workers on strike on that day.

Strategy can win

The call for national action follows the hugely successful targeted action that has already taken place across a number or areas of DfT, Home Office, DWP and EFRA in recent weeks.

The strategy pushed by Left Unity, and overwhelmingly supported at our conference in December, is to maximise the amount of action members take for the duration of our mandate, while minimising the financial sacrifice of members.

The current mandate is the strongest we have had in years, and we have every reason to be confident we can win our demands on pay, pensions, job security and attacks to our redundancy terms, with the right industrial strategy. It is crucial that we use that mandate to maximum effect, and our ability to take thousands of members out continually between now and May, while supplementing that action with all member national action when it is right to do so, can deliver that effective strategy.

Crucial we build

The 1st February action involving all members, will see the first step in escalation beyond the targeted areas that have already taken action, and will be kept under review in the weeks ahead. The action is in line with the commitment we gave to members that we would prioritise targeted, paid strike action, while building national action in co-ordination with other unions. The aim is to deliver the hardest hitting action we can to bring the government back round the negotiating table, and it will need to be escalated over a period of time, in the absence any signs of an early settlement to the dispute.

Vital we build the fighting fund

A key element of our action, in the midst of the greatest cost of living crisis workers have faced in decades, is the union’s ability to offer strike pay to members taking targeted action. It should be remembered that when the union asks members to take such action, they are striking, not only for themselves, but for all of us. It is vital, therefore, for that action to be sustainable over the lifetime of the mandate, and so must be paid. We obviously cannot expect members to have a disproportionate loss of pay, and so the levy that will kick in from 1st February is critical.

It is disappointing that some activists have publicly opposed the levy and actively agitated with members against it, some calling for it to be voluntary. Left Unity are clear that the guarantee of sufficient funds to continue paying members who strike for all of us, is integral to the success of our strategy, and cannot be delivered through voluntary donations. At the same time the ask for members to pay either £3 or £5 a month aims to minimise the cost to all members, while delivering sufficient funds to sustain our targeted action. The total cost for members between February and May will be either £12 or £20, depending whether you earn £24,000 or less.

When explained to members, our experience is that they understand the importance of the levy and why the amounts have been set as they are.

A dispute we can win – a dispute we must win

The current cost of living and threat to thousands of our members jobs, were key in delivering the most successful ballot result PCS have had in decades.

The impact of systemic low pay across the Civil Service and related areas, is having a devastating impact on our members and their families, and is driving their determination to win this dispute.

The Left Unity led strategy of paid targeted action, funded from the strike fund and topped up by the levy, supplemented by national all member action, possibly in co-ordination with other unions, gives us the best chance of winning.

Let’s all work together to make the 1st February a huge success and, with the ongoing targeted action, make this action something the Tories can simply not ignore.