Today marks the start of five weeks of industrial action targeting passport examination staff across HMPO production sites. That’s a huge undertaking, involving around 1,500 members on strike for an extended period.
This morning saw huge picket lines outside of Peterborough, London, Newport, Belfast, Glasgow, Liverpool, Durham, and Southport offices. It was a cold start to the day, but we brought the sunshine with us, which in turn brought large numbers of members down to support the strike and the pickets were especially notable for the number of young members who were present. Morale was high with members excited about the prospect of really making a difference.
The strike is fully linked into our national strategy; we identified an area which could deliver the greatest impact – that’s passport production. We recognised that we needed to wait to target a time of year when applications had started to pick up – that’s now. We also knew we needed a significant period of action so that backlogs developed, and the greatest leverage created – that’s five weeks, well to start with…
We’ve already seen loads of media coverage and we’re hoping this only increases. This is a strike designed to win, it’s a huge outlay from our strike fund and demonstrates our commitment to maximising and escalating the pressure we are putting the government under.
The ability of the union to fund strike pay has been key in our strategy, there’s no way that we could have asked this group of members to go out for 5 weeks unpaid or funded through donations to hardship funds. Financially that’s completely unviable but they are also striking on behalf of all our members in PCS. Our national action encompasses the strikes in the Government Digital Service, the British Library and all the other areas we have targeted so far.
We are also looking forward to the action on the 28 April. This gives an opportunity for all those members not covered by the passport action to join in and demonstrate solidarity. That’s in addition to the solidarity we are all showing via the levy we are all paying that is allowing to prosecute such significant action as that in the passport office.
We have already seen over 600 new members join the passport office within the last two weeks since this action was announced. We have also had new reps come forward and we are hoping to increase and diversify our activist base.
This action has excited young members in the workplace. Young members are disproportionately affected by the extortionate rental market, let alone the ever-receding dream of being able to buy. Many of them have huge student loans taking a percentage of their pay every month. They have seen coverage of strikes on the news and now they know they have a union which is also in the fightback. The strikes and picket lines are inspiring and politicising the next generation of trade unionists our movement needs.
We know that this is significant action, but we also know that we have to ensure we renew our ballot because we need to be ready to continue into the next six months. Make sure you vote, take part in the 28 April all member action, and visit a passport office picket line! Together we can build the union, inspire new reps and ultimately win the pay rise all our members deserve and need.
Karen is standing for the NEC on the Democracy Alliance slate. The full slate can be found here -> https://pcsleftunity.org/democracy-alliance-nec-nominees-2023/
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