Over the last 14 months, we have had 613 positive covid cases in the DVLA. We have had one death. These could have been avoided. Back in March last year, the DVLA worked with us to get numbers on site reduced to around 400 staff and non essential services scaled back to key workers only. This move was welcomed and supported by PCS. Then September came, and numbers onsite increased massively. We had the vulnerable staff coming back onsite, along with parents who has been off due to childcare, and that was also tied in to the usual spike of staff on site after the summer leave period.
On Thursday 6th May, the PCS Northern region held a solidarity rally for the DVLA strikers in Swansea. It was great to chair a meeting which gave an opportunity for our members and reps to hear from DVLA branch chair, Sarah Evans, ask questions about the dispute and the issues surrounding it, and to show their solidarity by sending messages of support.
By now you should have received your ballot papers in the post for the election of the PCS National Executive Committee (NEC). This is to determine who represents you at the highest level of the union. This will decide who makes the decisions on matters that affect all Civil Servants and who negotiates with Cabinet Office etc. on things like Civil Service Pensions, the Civil Service Compensation Scheme and pushing for Civil Service wide pay increases.
Equally important however is who represents you at a Group level. In the DWP, as in other groups in PCS, members will soon receive a second ballot paper by email wherever they have an email address registered with PCS. This ballot will decide who runs your Group Executive Committee (GEC). It is the GEC who talk to your Departmental management leadership on everything from Pay in the Group to Health and Safety at work, how your role in the Department operates, what the policies say which govern how you’re treated at work, what workloads there are and how many staff are needed to do the work.
Voting in both these ballots, the NEC ballot which has been posted to you, and the GEC ballot you should receive by email from 29 April, is vital to decide who acts on your behalf at both Group and National level. Why do the NEC ballot papers get posted even when PCS have your email contact details? This is because of the Anti-Trade Union laws in the UK. All statutory ballots (which the NEC election is counted as) must be conducted by postal ballot. PCS along with other Trade Unions want this practice to be changed to increase member engagement and to make it easier for members to have their say in who runs their Union, but until then the NEC ballot has to be done by post.
We encourage every single member to use their vote. PCS Left Unity in DWP, and alongside our allies the PCS Democrats as part of the Democracy Alliance at National Level, have been leading PCS’ campaigns on behalf of members, fighting for your Pay, Pensions, your safety at work throughout the Pandemic as well as before and since, along with a whole host of other issues which affect your daily life at work in the Civil Service or on outsourced Civil Service contracts.
Please use both your votes to elect a leadership who work day in day out for you, your colleagues and your family’s wellbeing. Please post your NEC ballot paper to arrive by no later than 13 May, and complete your electronic ballot paper for the GEC election by no later than 18 May to decide who runs your union.
Steven Swainston is standing as a Left Unity candidate for the PCS DWP GEC as Group Assistant Secretary and as a Democracy Alliance candidate for the PCS NEC.
Workers Memorial Day is held every year on the 28th April to commemorate those who have been injured or died in the workplace.
This year is perhaps more poignant for those in DWP due to the terrible effects of Covid. At the start of the pandemic in the UK, sadly a number of workers from DWP offices died. My thoughts are with the families and friends that have lost loved ones, and the colleagues of those sadly passed away. We also have in our thoughts a number of people who caught Covid and are suffering long term effects and struggling to continue to work or are not yet back working, and will continue to fight to get the department to exempt Long Covid under our attendance policy.
Throughout the pandemic the Left Unity led GEC have negotiated to ensure measures are in place to make the offices as safe as possible and succeeded in getting almost 90% of staff working from home, while those who wanted to be in the workplace for personal reason could continue to do so. This ensured for a number of days that no offices were closed for a deep clean as there had been no suspected or confirmed cases in our sites.
This is not now the case. The Secretary of State has demanded DWP open offices further as the high street is now open and the DWP jumped to do her bidding. Unfortunately, we have had some local managers trying to outdo each other in getting more staff in regardless of whether it was safe to do so. Since this idiotic decision we are once again getting daily closures due to cases. We have remonstrated with senior management over this and despite obstacles being put in our way we are trying to ensure that the procedures put in place minimise the risks, though we know the best way to minimise the risk is to maximise those working from home.
So I urge you to take a couple of minutes on the 28th April to remember those killed or injured in the workplace…. and lets fight for the living.
Can is standing for the DWP GEC as part of the Left Unity slate. Click on the image below for more information.