Thousands of people protested in Manchester on Saturday against the Israeli state’s latest attacks on Palestinians. Around 1500 people gathered for the event called by Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign bringing homemade placards and Palestinian flags to demand justice for the Palestinians and no forced evictions from Sheik Jarrah, East Jerusalem.
Campaigners had set up a group of tents to symbolise the refugee camps that have existed since the Nakba. There were banners and activists from NW PCS, Unison and the Trades Council. Speakers including local Labour MP Afzal Khan talked about decades of injustice the Palestinians have suffered. Many spoke about their personal experiences of dispossession, the pain of being born in refugee camps and never being able to go home. Other speakers talked about the Israeli arms factory in Greater Manchester and demanded that the British government stop selling arms and military equipment to Israel.
Thank you to everyone who voted and to branches who campaigned hard, in a uncertain year due to the pandemic, to elect a Democracy Alliance NEC. Our campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, contrasted with the negative campaigning of some of our opponents, and members have obviously responded well to that. Commiserations with John Jamieson, our only candidate to narrowly miss out.
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.