Solidarity with CWU strikes

Assuming the Tory austerity agenda of the last 12 years didn’t affect your regular route, it feels a bit like waiting for a bus doesn’t it? You spend an age waiting for an organised fightback by workers for better pay and conditions, then suddenly loads turn up at once.

On 29th July and 1st August, 40,000 CWU members in BT and Openreach took strike action for the first time in 35 years and PCS members joined in solidarity with them on picket lines up and down the country. Solidarity on the picket line is important. It’s not just a photo-op for social media likes; it means that at a grassroots level we network and engage with workers in other sectors, we share ideas and experiences from current and past struggles. We listen and we learn, gauge public opinion – resoundingly in favour since you asked judging by the honking of horns and positive comments from passers-by.

It shows we have had their backs in this dispute and make no mistake, they will have our backs should we strike later.

Many of the struggles and grievances of CWU members are ours. Like many in PCS, CWU members were classed as key workers during the pandemic. None of what we did and still do would be possible without the hard work and dedication of CWU members. While we were working at home delivering benefits and furlough money, or processing DBS checks for job applicants, CWU members provided, maintained and delivered the infrastructure 24/7 to enable us to work remotely, to deliver pay and benefits, to check in on our loved ones remotely, to shop remotely, to “attend” funerals, to have Zoom quizzes! etc.

Like many of us in PCS they are also low paid with many claiming in-work benefits to get by. Like us they are fighting against real terms pay cuts in the face of rising inflation fueled by profiteering rather than wages and attacks on their pensions and demanding a 10% pay rise for workers which, like us, they deserve.

Last year, BT Group made a profit in excess of £1.3 billion which was more than enough to meet an inflation matching pay rise. What did BT do? They imposed a flat £1,500.00 pay rise for their workforce while their CEO, Philip Jansen, received a £3.5 million pay package, effectively a 32% pay rise. To add insult to injury, £700 million was paid out to shareholders. It is also reported that at least one BT office set up a food bank to assist employees, earning the CEO the nickname “Food Bank Phil”. A further £400m profit was announced for the first quarter of this year just hours before the second day of strike action. It is hardly surprising then that 95.8% of Openreach engineers and 91.5% of BT members voted for industrial action.

This is where I sound a note of urgent caution about what we can learn from our CWU friends. As you are probably aware, BT Group also includes the mobile phone giant EE who achieved union recognition in 2019. EE members were also balloted and a whopping 95.5% of them who voted were also in favour of industrial action. Unfortunately for them, they fell short of the 50% threshold by just 8 votes meaning they could not join their colleagues in BT and Openreach in taking strike action. They were crushed but galvanised and they will learn from this and so must we in PCS.

Some of our members are keen to get out of the blocks and ballot for strike action right now if not weeks ago. This is understandable but the simple truth is we are not ballot ready yet – individual branches and departments may be but this has to be a concerted and unified message to Government across the Civil Service. Anti-union legislation by successive Tory governments places bumps and barriers in the road such as postal ballots only for industrial action and the 50% turnout thresholds.

In our consultative ballot in March we may have sent a strong message to Government of our willingness to take industrial action for fair pay but turnout was 45.2 %. There is work to be done and currently there is a massive push within PCS to ensure member records are bang up to date with names, addresses, work locations and grades correct to maximise turnout in a postal ballot and fend off the risk of any legal challenges.

If I may stretch the earlier bus analogy a little further, the PCS bus is currently in the depot being serviced to ensure it is roadworthy and resilient but there is much to learn from the experience of EE. Among our membership are the tools and resources to do this so if a rep or branch official contacts you to update records, please be nice and confirm them. It could be the difference between having insulting pay deals imposed on us or reaching that 50% threshold that will force them to listen. The ballot opens on 26th September and closes 6 weeks later.

You can show your solidarity to CWU by emailing your MP courtesy of an easy to complete template which only takes a minute to complete (link below)

Dylan Wilson

Solidarity with the rail strikes

PCS Left Unity members from the DWP GEC were proud to show solidarity with RMT strikers in Leeds this morning.

RMT members are striking because the rail companies have frozen their pay and want to cut rail services, whilst at the same time cutting thousands of rail workers’ jobs.

Rail workers are taking strike action as a last resort to defend their jobs, pay and conditions and to protect the services they provide to the public. 

Whilst the rail companies are threatening all of this, they made a fortune during the COVID-19 pandemic. £300 million profit for companies who operate trains, £949 million profit for companies who own the trains and £235 million profit for companies who repair the tracks.

80% of profits go to foreign-owned companies. On average the rail companies are making £500 million profit per year.

We all need to support the RMT in their action as it affects all of us. There is huge public support for this action, as was evident in Leeds this morning. RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch, has eloquently explained the issues and the background to the dispute and more and more people are understanding the need to fight back against this rotten government. 

Liz Truss was on the news today talking about the need to tighten up anti-trade union legislation still further and make it even harder for workers to withdraw their labour. It is clear that whoever wins the Tory leadership contest, they’re coming for us.

PCS members are urged to support the RMT action, and all workers in dispute, and do all we can to prepare for our own ballot in September as the cuts to our pay and conditions intensify. 

Together we are all stronger.

Solidarity with the rail strikes

click on the image to download as PDF

The Railworkers’ strike this week is an opportunity to start a massive offensive against the Tories. Members of the RMT Union working for Network Rail and 13 train operating companies will be out this Tuesday 21 June, this Thursday 23 June and Saturday 25 June fighting for an above inflation pay rise. On Tuesday they will be joined by 11,000 London Underground workers in the RMT and Unite fighting 600 job cuts.

Train cleaners working for outsourcing company Churchill on GTR, Network Rail, HS1 and South East Trains are already on strike for £15 an hour, sick pay and free travel. 

We should support all of these workers by going to their pickets line with PCS flags, banners and solidarity snacks. This will raise their confidence that they have support especially if they’re getting grief from the media. But it also means we can learn from their experience of organising at work and getting the vote out across different rail companies and sections. These lessons will help us stop office closures and help win our ballot in September on pay, pensions and the Civil Service Compensation Scheme.

In Manchester a group of us will be visiting the pickets at Piccadilly Station on Tuesday morning from 7.30am. We’re Meeting by the Bulls Head pub on the big crossroads with Fairfield St close to the short term parking behind the station. I encourage everyone to organise delegations to visit the picket lines.

The cost of living crisis is an emergency we can fight learning from Railworkers experiences. They are leading the fight and we must do everything we can to support them from picket line visits, office collections and messages of support.

If the Railworkers win, it will make it more likely that we will win and that will be a victory for our whole class.

Sarah Ensor

ADC 2022 – the fight is on

PCS national conference 2022 met in person last week, the first time since the Covid pandemic began, with the opportunity for delegates to join virtually. It was an important event, coming in the midst of a cost of living crisis and the threat to 91,000 civil service jobs.

Conference opened on Tuesday with a session on the crucial issue of the national campaign. Delegates agreed overwhelmingly to move to a Statutory Ballot on pay, pensions and the CSCS in September, with the idea of moving immediately to a ballot in July being heavily defeated. Delegates discussed the crucial need to prepare for the ballot in every office, branch and group.

A very fraternal discussion followed where we discussed building solidarity with Ukrainian trade unions, while recognising that the Ukrainian government is trying to push through anti union measures, and that both our own and US governments have their own agenda in supporting the resistance to Putin’s occupation.

Guest speaker Dame Shami Chakrabarti discussed the government’s racist policies and congratulated PCS for our role in stopping the plan to push refugees back in the English Channel.

Before the opening session on Wednesday delegates gathered with Clare Moseley from Care4Calais and Dame Chakrabarti to show our solidarity with refugees and opposition to the horrendous plan to offshore refugees in Rwanda. During conference motions were passed opposing the Nationality and Borders bill, and opposing the Rwanda plan.

The continued effect of Covid on our workplaces was debated and the government’s lack of interest in our safety condemned.

Equalities motions passed included a motion discussing the disproportionate effect of Covid on oppressed communities and opposition to government plans to allow conversion therapy to continue for the Trans community.

Conference discussed building on the success of the COP26 demonstrations and deepening the campaign into our workplaces.

We agreed to continue to develop our network of MPs in Parliament, while recognising that the Labour Party has retreated from promoting workers rights since the election of Keir Starmer as leader.

 There were a number of important fringe meetings to discuss our campaigning and the need to engage all members, with the biggest by far being the meeting with Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Grady, who shared vital tips with PCS delegates about how to prepare for and win a statutory ballot.    

The Left Unity rally on Wednesday night was the largest for some years. There was a real buzz and a feeling of enthusiasm throughout, expressing the determination and confidence felt by delegates in general, and by Left Unity members in particular. It was great to welcome a striker from the strike at St James Tavern in Brighton, and Laura Pidcock from the People’s Assembly. Those who attended went away enthused about the need to build Left Unity and PCS, and the potential to join up our struggles and build a massive campaign of opposition against the tory attacks that our members face.

On the final morning we received an organising report which came back to the urgent need to develop organising in our branches and offices. One of the key events which ran through the conference was the TUC cost of living demonstration on June 18th, and the opportunity it presents to organise our members.

We left conference determined to build PCS and develop the strength and confidence of our members and our class.

NEC elections – Democracy Alliance re-elected

Just a short message to thank everyone who voted to re-elect a strong Democracy Alliance leadership to lead PCS in what we know will be a tough period ahead. Just two of our candidates narrowly missed out, which is a resounding result. Left Unity thanks every single member who voted, campaigned and made that possible. Congratulations to all those elected onto the NEC and commiserations to the two comrades who haven’t made it this time. We know they will both be back.

The message in the last few days, that the government intends to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, following plans to close DWP offices and decimate services to the public shows why strong leadership is so important right now.

The incoming NEC will need to hit the ground running and make sure we focus on engaging reps and members about the activity necessary in the period ahead to oppose the threats of this rotten government to members’ jobs and to public services. So whether that’s building support for the mass demonstration on 18th June, working with other unions to build alliances or recruiting to PCS, there is much work to do together to unite members in the biggest campaign possible.

Group elections are also very important. A strong, united leadership is just as important at group level. DWP members have until 12 noon on Tuesday May 17th to dig out the email and cast their vote, and for HMRC members, the relaunch of the ballot starts on Wednesday 18th May. In both elections, you are asked to support all Left Unity candidates, please get in touch if you need help with this or with locating the email.

Block vote elections are being held ahead of Annual Delegate Conference this year, and an email about this has been sent by Civica, just marked PCS, to every branch secretary. These elections close on Thursday 19th May, please follow the recommendation which was sent last week to all Left Unity members.

We hope to see many of you in Brighton next week at Annual Delegate Conference. Look out for our rally, which will take place on Wednesday 25th May.

Again, thank you to all those who voted for Democracy Alliance candidates, we will work tirelessly to repay your faith.

Let’s make the TUC demo on June 18th massive

The cost of living crisis is crippling working class people.

Inflation has hit 7%, with estimates that it could hit double figures this year. Utility costs have gone through the roof, and are estimated to rise sharply again in October. Food bank usage spirals up.

Meanwhile Tory MPs talk about how we can live on 30p per day and should learn how to shop for value goods. It is insulting beyond belief.

The TUC has called a demonstration, ‘We demand better‘ on June 18th in response. We need to take it seriously. As we move towards a statutory pay and pensions ballot, and while the government are threatening to sack 1 in 5 civil servants, June 18th will be an important milestone for the trade union movement.

Every PCS branch needs to be organising to get a delegations on the demonstration. Workplace reps should be organising to bring the members along. Every city and town will have transport going to the demonstration and the PCS is committed to funding coaches. Every member who joins the demonstration will go home more confident and determined to fight.

Left Unity members, from the NEC through to reps in offices will be throwing ourselves into organising people to join the demonstration. We have five weeks to build the demonstration, let’s make sure we are proud of the PCS turnout.

Report from STUC Conference

The STUC presents a good opportunity for activists to build links with other like-minded trade unionists about joint campaigning on issues like Pay and Pensions covered by the National Campaign. This years STUC took place 25 – 27 April at Aberdeen’s Music Hall with a delegation well represented with Left Unity members.

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