London PCS members join student climate strike

On February 14th PCS members were among trade unionists who joined school students and other environmental activists in Central London to make their voices heard to demand more action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.


This was the latest of the monthly school student strikes called by the UK Student Climate Network, and inspired by Greta Thunberg.


BEIS are the lead Government department responsible for achieving the Government net zero target by 2050. So it was fitting that PCS activists in BEIS took the lead in calling for trade unionists to rally under the banner “The Climate emergency is a Workers Emergency!” Dozens of trade unionists gathered outside of the BEIS HQ in Victoria Street. They were responding to the plea from school students for workers to join them in the ongoing struggle for climate justice which kicked off with last Septembers’ global climate strike that saw over 300,000 people take to the streets across the UK.


PCS activists from the culture sector, Defra, DfT and elsewhere joined the trade union bloc which then marched to join the student rally in Parliament Square which then headed to Downing Street.

Trade unionists have a specific angle to bring to the climate justice movement. BEIS not only lead on the Government’s woefully inadequate response to climate breakdown, but also are leading in attacking rights of workers to take collective action.

PCS activists in BEIS were especially keen to stand up and be counted in opposing even more Tory restrictions on our right to strike – activists called for BEIS to withdraw plans for new legislation to ban all-out strikes by transport workers saying; “We stand against all anti-union laws, both existing and proposed, and believe that free unions and a full right to strike, including over political issues, are essential for confronting the climate crisis.”


A just transition to a sustainable economy will mean climate jobs and will not be achievable without workers action. Meanwhile students took up a Valentine’s Day theme with a banner that expressed urgency: “Roses are red, violets are blue, our Earth is burning and soon we will too.”


As one activist from BEIS said after the rally; “I feel I have done more today to tackle climate change than I am allowed to do in my day job – and we are supposed to be the lead department!”
The next strike on 13th March.

Making PCS central to anti racism in our communities

Over the last couple of years there have been a number of racist attacks around Edinburgh. SUtR has worked with other organisations, including trade unions, Unite Against Fascism and local politicians in order to build responses to these.

This has been in the context of a resurgence of overt racism, particularly by some populist politicians, and PCS recognises that the workplaces in which we represent members are not immune from scapegoating the most vulnerable in society.

In May 2018, a Syrian refugee sustained life threatening injuries in a racially aggravated attempted murder within our city, with the attacker reportedly having said “go back to your country”. As a PCS DWP GEC member and Left Unity member I took part in the  SUtR campaign which was centrally involved in organising a protest of  people to make it clear that racists were not welcome in Edinburgh.

A few months later, in August, a Sikh temple near where I work was fire bombed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but again as part of SUtR I worked with the local community, including the Muslim Women’s Association, to hold firstly a vigil and then a march and rally. As I told the media at the time, we wanted the Sikh community and other religious minorities to know that we stood in full solidarity with them. PCS members came on the march with a branch banner and PCS flags. I spoke on behalf of the PCS at the rally of Edinburgh SUtR and a number of others, including a Hibernian football club supporters’ group, who brought their own banner.

PCS members in my workplace were very pleased that other members of their union had attended the demonstration and were keen to know how it had gone, as they were alarmed when they learned about this attack within the vicinity of where they work.

This was less than three months after a Sikh temple, along with a mosque, had been attacked in Leeds. Those assaults had followed a march in support of the jailed fascist Tommy Robinson. And later that year Robinson threatened to come to Edinburgh, to attend a Hearts v Rangers football match. As part of SUtR PCS helped organise around 100 football supporters to leaflet outside the stadium on the day telling Robinson he wasn’t welcome. We succeeded – he didn’t turn up for the game, and posted on Facebook complaining about being prevented from attending. Many of the fans thanked us for what we had done, and emphasised that racists were not welcome at their club.

Most recently, we helped organise a vigil after two shopkeepers of Asian origin were violently attacked by a gang of 20 youths, threatened with being  knived and hit with a crowbar while being called racist names, demanding to know why they had come to this country. The gang had been hanging around the shop calling people racist names and threatening them over a two month period, but nothing had been done about this. SUtR circulated a petition calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that it’s policy of zero tolerance to racism is properly enforced; a position that Left Unity and PCS fully endorse.

These few examples illustrate why it is so important for working class organisations to be involved in Stand Up to Racism, and why I am particularly proud to have moved the motion at PCS Conference for our union to affiliate to SUtR.

I attended the recent SUtR trade union Conference as part of the PCS delegation led by Fran Heathcote and Mohammed Shafiq, both of whom are Left Unity members and whose excellent speeches demonstrated the seriousness with which we takethe fight against racism.

Racism comes from those in power who would seek to turn us against one another rather than fighting back against austerity. we’re confident we can turn the tide against racism but we must keep working very hard towards that objective.

Steve West is standing for the DWP GEC as part of the Left Unity slate

Launching the North West Disabled Members Network

I am the Branch Treasurer for Preston Central Branch, North West Disabled members rep and
also on the DWP Group Women’s Advisory committee.
As a woman with several disabilities, throughout my career in the Civil service I have faced
numerous barriers. Some of those are securing reasonable adjustments, DETP and fighting for
equality. Within my branch I have raised the profile of PCS and also pushed for disabled
members to be treated equally. I have achieved this through sending out newsletters,
empowering members through education about the Equality Act and ensuring that they are
aware of the Departments policy especially around reasonable adjustments. I have also
encouraged members to join the Equality networks and to get involved.
Within my business area I noticed that after the re-organisation the Department didn’t have a
Disabled Persons Officer. This was a huge concern to me as I have many colleagues that have disabilities and without someone in that role, colleagues wouldn’t get the support they needed in work. I contacted the senior leaders regarding this and have now become the Disabled persons officer for the whole of Carers Allowance and Attendance Allowance. This will give me the opportunity to ensure that disabled colleagues will have reasonable adjustments put in place, specialist equipment supplied and are treated equally. It also gives me another platform to use to raise the profile of PCS and recruit new members.
In June last year I was given the opportunity to be part of the steering committee for the North
West Disabled members network and to help relaunch that network. I attended several planning meetings where we decided what agenda we wanted and also agreed the terms of reference for the network. I wrote an article on reasonable adjustments for the first newsletter for this network and regularly update the networks Facebook page. I also co-chaired this event in November and it was a resounding success. We have had another meeting since then which was well attended and we agreed to three campaigns for the year ahead. I am continuing to help build this network by signing up members to the equality strands.
I am passionate about Equality, growing the networks and recruiting new members to PCS.
Equality transcends across everything that we do and should be at the heart of any decisions
that are made not only within PCS but throughout society.
Suzanne Grice
Suzanne Grice is standing on the Left Unity slate for the DWP GEC.

Support the Interserve strikers at the FCO

Several mornings this week, I have been proud to support our PCS Interserve strikers on their picket line outside the Foreign and Commonwealth office. These low paid members are on strike from 3rd to 28th February for a set of very basic demands.

They are on strike to get basic conditions that most of us take for granted including proper sick pay and trade union recognition. The PCS NEC have pledged our full support and to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, every step of the way until they win a better deal in the workplace.

This week (Tuesday), we held a strike rally at the picket line to coincide with Heart Unions week, supported by many Labour MPs, where speakers included Mark Serwotka, Frances O Grady, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and PCS Parliamentary group chair, Chris Stephens from the SNP. Having such high profile support really gave the strikers a boost, for many, this is the first time that they have been on strike and it really helped their morale.

On Wednesday, they held a successful and well-supported parliamentary drop-in to further raise awareness of their campaign. We really need the FCO and the Foreign Secretary to engage with us now – this dispute would be so simple to settle if the willingness was there.

The strikers are picketing every morning and it is very cold. Many of the strikers don’t have English as a first language, and the banner which reads “We speak many languages but through our union we have one voice” really has a resonance.

Spirits remain high as they leaflet people who pass by and there are core team who picket every single morning. Solidarity is always appreciated and just spending an hour on their picket line if you happen to be in London really helps.

Left Unity members are encouraged to support the picket lines if you are in London, donate to the strike fund or send a simple message of support. Solidarity is not just an empty slogan for us. We will do all that we can to support these low paid workers, recognising that if we can win disputes like these, not only do we give these workers a better deal at work but the whole union and its members are stronger for it.

Fran Heathcote

PCS President

Fran is standing on the Democracy Alliance slate for President

Mohammed Shafiq’s speech at the Stand Up To Racism Trade Union Conference

Well thank you so much for that warm welcome, and friends what a great honour it is to be here representing my Union PCS Union at the Stand up to Racism Conference.  The work that you do has been essential to defeat racism and expose fascism in our workplaces and communities.


Whether it is defeating anti-Semitism, calling out Islamophobia or standing with the Windrush generation, you have always been on that front line and I and members of minority communities take huge inspiration and appreciate the work every single of you being here today and stand up to racism do, so thank you for all that you do.


So we don’t often get the chance to celebrate our success, what an extraordinary year it has been since the last time we were here.  In January I had a meeting with the Vice President of Facebook and we had a talk about Islamophobia, racism and anti-Muslim hatred.  She said she wanted to make Facebook the platform of equality and tackling discrimination, harassment – I said to her, she goes how can I do it and I said firstly you have to ban Tommy Robinson and other far right leaders.


Now what I didn’t expect – I had such an impact on here that less than three weeks later she banned Tommy Robinson from Facebook and I said YES!


That’s when the problems started for me in my personal life.  I got around 3000 hateful messages on Facebook, Twitter and Social Media. I had threats of life against me.  I had threats that the far right was going to rape my wife and children.   I was followed on the street, my address was published on far right websites and fake news were printed about me.  I was literally told that to watch my back – we are coming for you.


At that time, it was quite a dangerous time for me but I did not give up and the reason I didn’t give up was the struggle against racism and fascism, whatever the risks to ourselves and our families requires us to show true leadership and requires us to be on the frontline.


So I never let them defeat me; I got up, continued and I am still standing today.


So I know the general election wasn’t the result we expected. But I think it always an opportunity to pause; reflect and celebrate the successes we achieved.  We defeated Tommy Robinson from becoming a member of the European Parliament.  I see Nahella Ashraf here; I see Paul Jenkins who single handily exposed Tommy Robinson in the North West.  So yes we might be a bit disillusioned and we might be struggling with the political outlook for the future; but one thing I do know is that we’re never going to give in to racists and xenophobes and we are always going to stand together.


As Trade Unionists because that’s the important thing – all the people in this room and all of our colleagues in the Trade union movement are working very strongly to defeat racism and xenophobia.  And just to go back to my Union PCS, when I joined many many years ago there was little diversity in our top team.  We know have three strong black women on the NEC, including our very first black Vice president and hopefully in months and years to come we will see a future black leader of our Union.


PCS have been at the heart of the campaign against racism, we have never stopped supporting Stand up to Racism, Unite against Fascism; whenever there has been a struggle we’ve been on the frontline and our Union is committed to continue that support.


Tackling racism in the workplace is the title of the session, I have supported some members dealing with racism following the Brexit referendum.  In a Jobcentre a Civil Servant said the day after the referendum said we have taken back control and its time to get rid of the EU Scum to a migrant worker from the EU.  It took huge support and hard work to get justice for our members.


It’s about tackling racism in the workplace, it’s what one of my colleague has said; that the language of the far right has been mainstreamed into our politics and our workplaces and we must confront it.  I am proud of the fact my Union PCS recognises educating our members and activists is so important – that’s why we are starting to roll out our anti-racism training and awareness sessions on the far right for all our members so they are equipped with the knowledge and experience to take on the battle.


So if we can defeat fascism and racism as we have done over the last twelve months.  If we have the same commitment and same passion to do wat we have did in the last twelve months.  I am very confident not only will we see the finishing of UKIP, the EDL and Football Lads Alliance, we will defeat the Tories at the next election.

Mohammed Shafiq is standing in the DWP GEC elections on the Left Unity slate

Treat PCS Interserve strikers at the FCO with respect

PCS members working for private company, Interserve, at the Foreign Office (FCO) are taking a month’s strike action, the longest in the history of FCO.

All that they are asking for is to be treated with a bit of respect. The Foreign Secretary is responsible for every worker employed on FCO premises but refuses to get involved.

Going on strike for a month is a brave thing to do, many of these workers had never been on strike before, they are low paid and they are not treated well.

For some, English is not their first language, we calculated on the picket line on Wednesday that there are members from over 15 different countries involved. These members deserve our full support.

Interserve do not treat these members well. They refuse to recognise PCS, changed their contracts without agreement or buy-out, won’t give them proper payslips, didn’t take part in ACAS talks in a constructive way, reduced working hours for cleaners who took part in strike action, made some colleagues redundant since the strikes began, including two of our reps, and have spent a fortune on paying others to break the strike instead of getting around the table and trying to reach agreement. 

These members feel that they are treated as second class citizens and are asking for your support. Their demands are very simple, this dispute could be settled immediately but the employer appears to have ‘dug its heals in’!

The picket lines are loud and vibrant, with vuvuzelas at full blast! There are multiple entrances to cover but luckily PCS membership has quadrupled since they began this campaign and spirits remain high, even though it is often very cold.

On the picket line this morning, one member was telling us how the change from monthly to daily pay has left him out of pocket. This shoddy treatment has to end.

Next week, on Tuesday 11th February, to coincide with the TUC’s Heart Unions week, I am looking forward to hosting our ‘Solidarity day’ where we will hear from a number of speakers including TUC GS, Frances O’Grady and PCS GS, Mark Serwotka.

There is lots of support from other unions, MPs and local campaigners and at the Central London reps’ meeting this week, we discussed asking branches to ‘adopt a strike day’ when each branch could go along to the picket line on a given day to show solidarity and support. Some branches are now considering this.

Left Unity members in PCS fully support these low paid members in their struggle, they are only asking for what most of us take for granted.

Building the union has given them the opportunity to stand up for themselves and we will continue to stand with them in solidarity every step of the way.

Fran Heathcote

Developing our National Campaign

PCS now faces a very difficult 5 years ahead. Anyone not convinced about that should just ‘google’ Dominic Cummings’ comments about the future of the civil service.

We are in the process of rebuilding our parliamentary group and will work with MPs, inside and outside Parliament, to build support for our campaign on pay, pensions and the CSCS. We will continue to assess the situation, consulting our members at every stage as we move forward.

The protection of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) is of massive importance to all members, a good example being those in HMRC who are facing a hugely uncertain future. It is PCS, and the campaign that we have continued for 4 years now, that has successfully defended the 2010 terms, and resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of pounds in our members’ pockets.

We have to recognise the very real concerns of all members, those affected in HMRC and in all other departments, and must do all that we can to protect them, and that means building a campaign that can defend them.

Linking the issues of pay, pensions and CSCS is completely logical at a time when we have conference policy on all of them and they all converge to see us in a potential dispute as early as the spring of 2020.

We are not seeking to build a long list of issues, or include issues that affect some groups differently, rather to unite our members over a clear set of demands. Let’s remember that the aim here is not just to win a ballot (although that is essential), but in fact to win real gains for our members. The issues above cannot be resolved at delegated level and must therefore form our national campaign. We don’t want to just take what we can get using a ‘shopping list’ of issues, we want to win the best deals possible and that means a joined-up campaign.

Members will have seen some recent material which attempts to distort the facts about the NEC’s political strategy – namely Marion Lloyd’s assertion, on behalf of the Socialist Party front, Broad Left Network, in her bid to be PCS president that ‘unlike her opponents, she is against Labour Party affiliation’. This is of course, not factually correct because Labour Party affiliation is not supported by the NEC, by Mark Serwotka or by me, nor is it conference policy.

It is not Left Unity policy and this repeated lie seeks to paint a picture of a PCS leadership supporting affiliation, to appeal to the most conservative, and even right-wing, elements within PCS as a further distraction. Nothing could be further from the truth. Left Unity will continue to follow conference policy, with industrial and political strategies to defend and advance the interests of our members.

The PCS NEC did agree, in the run-up to the General Election, to support the election of a Corbyn-led Labour government, based on their policy commitments, as we believed that would be in the best interests of our members.

An initial assessment of the consultation that was carried out in regions and branches, shows support for the policy of calling for a Labour vote in England and Wales. The result in Scotland also confirmed our position not to call for a vote for Labour there, but instead urging members to vote to keep the Tories out.

All regions except Northern Ireland responded, and in answer to the question ‘should the union recommend a vote for Labour in the General Election?’, all except Scotland answered yes. The only equality committee to respond was Proud, who answered the same. Branches were split along geographic lines, with Scottish branches opposing a Labour vote and the majority of branch responses in England and Wales supporting it.

To somehow seek to turn this into a debate over Labour Party affiliation is just wrong. It isn’t, and it never was.

The job of a responsible leadership now is to move forward  with as much unity as possible, taking into account all views and building a joined-up campaign amongst regions, branches and groups. I see that as my main role as I lead the National Executive Committee. We need to be careful not to descend into personal abuse or manufacture narrow political differences, as some seem intent on doing.  Members have chosen Mark Serwotka to lead PCS for the next 5 years and it is important that we all respect the democratic process, however you voted.

I am proud to work with Mark to deliver our policies and will continue to do so. Let’s not get distracted from protecting our members’ interests, that is, after all, what we are elected to do.

Left Unity now has a list of candidates with the commitment, drive and experience to lead PCS through the period ahead. We have not sought to sew division, or poach candidates from any other groupings. All of our candidates have committed to work together in the best interests of members, united by a willingness to fight for members and work together with our General Secretary in our members’ interests and not those of any external grouping.

We ask for your support and we ask that you demonstrate that by nominating our candidates at your branch AGM. We owe it to our members to put all of our efforts into ignoring the distractions and winning on the issues that matter to them.

Fran Heathcote

Fran Heathcote is standing as President as part of the Left Unity slate

DWP Group Black Members Committee organising report

We all know following the general election that worker rights are going be under heavy fire. We could do the ‘batten down the hatches’ thing but it of vital importance that we come out fighting but with a strategic battle plan. So it was good that the festive season followed the vote for much needed respite and to reflect on what we need to do as a union and as activists in our communities. Most of us are aware that hate crimes have risen in some areas by up to 80 percent and rather than abating we see a rise in overt incidences of hate in the civil service and wider society.

Along with the DWP Group Equality Officer, Bridget Corcoran, we produced articles marking International Women’s Day, Ramadan, Diwali, Christmas, Black and Disability History Month, Hanukah and Holocaust Memorial Day to raise awareness and to break down barriers that exist the Civil Service as well as outside of it.

The strength of a union is often within its density and its activists who should represent the membership. This is something that our (GBMC) and Regional Equality Reps have focused on over the last few months: How do we increase activity and density within the group? To this end we considered holding events in different regions but were mindful of the costs involved. With this in mind we approached the Union Learning co-ordinator to check whether our ideas were feasible and got the go ahead. We held our first event in London as it is one of our most diverse areas followed by Birmingham where the second event is planned for 26 February – details here.

The London event attracted several members who are not active and attendees were given an update on the national campaign by our President, Fran Heathcote, and a presentation on organising with information about the advocate role.

They also did a session on creative writing, this was a learning event after all, with the exception of the Group Equality Officer, Regional Equality Officer and I who had some minor creative differences (they are divas!), about dark and stormy nights and gentle breezes.

There was a general discussion about how we challenge the rise in hate crimes and attacks on the working class as a unit: a whole; what could we do as a union and what they could do themselves. It was a lively debate, rather impassioned at times, which is a good thing as it shows the hatches aren’t down; the periscope isn’t up: We are not peeping out from the ‘sunken place’.

We are planning more events, open to members and non-members, and our aim is to tailor these events to the demographic of the region. Using PCS Learning as a way of empowering our members and engaging them with our campaigns is a key part of our agenda.

Our members from diverse communities and backgrounds are readying ourselves for the fight and PCS Left Unity will stand with them side by side.

Annette Rochester – Left Unity NEC member and DWP group vice President

Further anti racism work:

Annette is one of the Democracy Alliance NEC candidates

Humanitarian aid to refugees in Calais

In my role as co-founder and National Chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK, I have been co-ordinating regular solidarity and humanitarian aid distributions including convoys since 2015 to people who are refugees in Northern France together with NEC member Hector Wesley who is also a BARAC officer. We specialise in addressing cultural and religious needs and also focus on urgent emergency supplies which change all the time.

We work closely with three charities in France, L’auberge des Migrants, Refugee Community Kitchen and Help Refugees.

We organise fundraising initiatives in order to purchase food, clothes, camping equipment, toiletries, blankets and other emergency supplies and essential items and we are grateful to PCS and TUC Race Relations Committee in supporting us in this work and to PCS members who have purchased tickets for our Black Members Social at ADC in 2018 and 2019, the proceeds of which went to our aid work.

There is still a great need for support as people are living on the roadside in places like Calais and Dunkirk, without shelter or access to adequate regular water and sanitation. The winter months are of course the worst having to survive outside.

Those who find themselves stranded in France are mostly trying to be reunited with family, friends and community in the UK. The vast majority of people are young men including children in their teens who are alone without parents or other adult family members and should be protected as children. They are people who are fleeing persecution, poverty, conflict and climate change, sometimes a combination.

Here are some key ways to help support our humanitarian aid and solidarity work with refugees in France:
1. Donate to the BARAC UK Humanitarian Appeal by visiting the GoFundMe page here: Alternatively send a cheque made payable to ‘BARAC
UK’ with the form below to: Zita Holbourne, BARAC National Chair, PCS National Vice
President, PCS HQ, 160 Falcon Road, London, SW11 2LN.
2. Drop off essential items to our distribution point at PCS HQ. Please address items (see list of items needed below) to: Zita Holbourne, PCS NEC, C/O Harvey Jacob (for Calais), PCS HQ, 160 Falcon Road, London, SW11 2LN.
3. Sponsor transport & travel.
4. Join a BARAC distribution by bringing a vehicle full of aid.
5. Organise a fundraising initiative in your branch or group.

Contact Zita Holbourne, BARAC Co Chair by email: or

Zita Holbourne, National Vice President PCS


Zita is standing as Vice President for the Democracy Alliance 2020