On Tuesday 17th March 2020 Birmingham ISS cleaners were due to strike and we had planned a strike rally with Fran Heathcote, the Midlands TUC secretary, a councillor and a Bootle striker. We also had a meeting planned for the evening. We had been organising for the events and were looking forward to them, but we were aware that the pandemic was looming.
Fran rang me the Friday before the event to tell me that she would not be able to come as the union had decided to suspend all travel and all meetings in response to the growing threat of Coronavirus.
The branch nomination process for the national and group elections closed last week and the nomination list for the NEC has now been published.
Left Unity would like to thank all those branches that supported and nominated the Democracy Alliance candidates. In a year like no other, the number of nominations our candidates received compares well next to our political opponents and when viewed against the last couple of years. This shows the majority of branches still recognise the important work done by the Left Unity leadership of our union.
Fran Heathcote received 70 branch nominations for President, over half the total nominations, and this pattern was repeated across the NEC nominations.
There is still much work to do, of course, and no one should be complacent going into the elections themselves. PCS Left Unity have led from the front during a challenging twelve months and the work our activists have done at all levels of the union is recognised in the published list of nominations.
Thank you once again, but please do all you can to ensure the Democracy Alliance slate receives that same level of support when the elections get under way next month.
As comrades may now know our members in DVLA have voted for strike action with 71.6% voting in favour, on a 50.3% turnout.
You may think that is a close result regarding the threshold we have to reach, and it was, but the result is nothing short of incredible and an absolute credit to the way PCS have worked at every level.
As we woke this morning to wish our mums a happy and restful day, my mind could not, and has not moved away from the scenes last night on Clapham Common as women stood, with candles lit, at a vigil for a murdered sister, and became embroiled in a horrendous fracas, manhandled and verbally abused by men.
Across the country the call to Reclaim These Streets saw communities holding a candle-lit vigil on the doorstep. In Clapham, members of the local community each attended the place where Sarah Everard was last seen, to pay respects and raise awareness of the plight of women. That scene on the Common was one of quiet sadness and despair, women holding, along with candles, banners to protest the gender-based violence that is still on the increase, and placards calling for safety for women. Yet that quiet reflection was invaded. Those women, many already traumatised from their own experiences of physical assault, sexual assault, and rape, mums and mums-to-be, nans and grandmothers watched as the enforcement service descended on their grief; the police showing a complete lack of sensitivity for a community struggling with loss, arrested grieving women, pinning some to the floor, and handed out extortionate fines under the guise of Covid-19 legislation. Those attending wore masks, and were socially distanced, at least until the state troopers led the event into chaos.
On Monday we celebrated International Women’s day and this year’s theme was Choose to Challenge. We tweeted and shared our favourite images of women empowering other women, quotes, art work, flags and hash tags. Trolls trotted out the same tired jokes about flags not being ironed, and women in the kitchen.
The next day a police officer was arrested in connection with the investigation to find missing woman Sarah Everard. Sarah disappeared on her way home from a friend’s house last week. She’d left her friend’s around 9pm, she had changed into trainers and took a well-lit route for the 50 minute walk. She never made it home, and the missing person search became a murder investigation.
The governments “road map” provides four steps towards full re-opening of society by 21 June 2021. After all this time who wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to once again meet up with friends and family, go the pub, and take a holiday or attend sporting events, theatres and concerts. Optimism is fuelled by the progress being made on the vaccination programme which has now seen around 20 million people in the UK receive their first jab, over one-third of the adult population. Understandably many workers will give a cautious welcome to the proposals but are they cause for celebration?
Former Ofsted leader shows the growing dangerous attitude toward Public Sector workers
On 26th February the Independent reported that the Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former chief inspector of schools, said that teachers need to show a “similar commitment” to medical professionals, who in some cases have “sacrificed their lives.”
This statement is not only worrying for its demand for teachers, vital public workers who have done everything possible to continue to educate our children throughout the pandemic, to put their lives at even greater risk but also that the sacrifices and deaths in the NHS and Care professions are not only acceptable they are to be expected.
The right to self determination is crucial for our collective empowerment against discrimination and patriarchal systems.
For the past couple of years, we have been celebrating Women’s History Month in addition to International Women’s Day – our herstories are important in documenting our struggles for women equality and creating a positive legacy for the future.
Women’s History Month started in the USA and although the first Women’s History Month in the USA took place over 100 years ago it is still a relatively new observance in the UK.