Standing Up to Racism in Edinburgh

Like many other activists in the trade union movement, I’m involved in Stand Up to Racism (SUtR), and over the last few weeks I’ve been convening meetings in Edinburgh, in order to build for a local event on UN Anti-Racism Day, 20th March.

This year, there is no let up in the challenges faced by anti-racists, with politicians and the media continuing to use racism in their attempts to divide opposition in response to the government’s mishandling of the pandemic. We have seen the stoking up of Islamophobia with the scapegoating of refugees and migrants.

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Period Dignity, from menstruation to menopause, we’re still here for you

PCS believe that no person with a period should be caught short and that period products should be free in workplace toilets the same way that toilet paper and soap are made available. And even though most of our members are currently working from home, which a Left Unity led union fought for, I believe it’s important to remember that the period dignity campaign encompasses so much more than the fight for free tampons or towels. It’s about unity. It’s about sisterhood. The call for ‘Period Dignity’ is about smashing the stigma and breaking the silence surrounding something that is so very natural. From menstruation to menopause and everything in between, we need to keep talking about it, all of it.

The Period Dignity Campaign which was moved by DWP Glasgow branch at National Conference 2018, very quickly started to gain momentum and our union (along with the various Women’s Advisory and Equality Committees) continued to highlight the importance of this campaign across our workplaces and beyond.

In May 2018 Celtic Football Club took the decision to provide the right to free sanitary products for fans. This campaign was set up by 3 football fans, all of which are working class women. Celtic, a club who have long been committed to working class values and set up with the purpose of alleviating poverty in the East end of Glasgow, were the first football club in the UK to install free dispensaries in the stadium toilets. 110 clubs across the UK have since followed suit.

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Digital recruitment (or how I learned to stop worrying and love technology)

As an organiser for my branch and regional organiser for DWP North East I’ve participated in many recruitment events for new staff and existing staff. The method was simple and imparted to me by several ‘old hats’ during TU inductions and events. “Look them in the eyes. Tell them about how brilliant PCS is, give them some pens, hand out some forms, collect them once they are completed” It seemed easy enough.

New staff inductions were normally conducted in a dreary training room which TU were invited to as part of the new staff induction to the department.

Invariably we would be allowed to talk to the recruits but only after HASSRA and the Charity for civil servants had already extolled the benefits of joining their club. On many occasions we would be asking them to fill out direct debits or salary deduction forms for the third time that day and glazed eyes told us that they were not really getting it.

To be fair I did get used to it and every now and again during spells of DWP recruitment I would toddle off to the training room with a clutch of forms, lanyards and pens to talk to the new staff. Obviously DWP recruitment, like most departments, has been virtually non-existent for several years’ now, so events to recruit existing staff became more prevalent.

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You Have No Authority Here Jackie Weaver

We know that the world is upside down, but how abnormal does it have to be for the ‘Texas Cat Attorney’ to get more hits on YouTube than the moon landings?  Jackie Weaver; the Britney Spears of Handforth Parish Council has endeared herself to the nation (apparently) for putting a couple of shouty old men into a Zoom waiting area, and it was very funny to watch an embarrassed academic fight off his excited toddler on a serious BBC interview about North Korean Politics.  I suspect many of us are sick to the back teeth of having to tell people that they are ‘on mute’ and I am sure many of us wonder if it will ever be customary to dress the bottom half of the body in office attire again.

However, the shift to working from home and meeting online has opened a serious debate and it is one we are having in PCS and one we should be encouraging in our Branches and offices.  When CCTV came in to Job Centres it was pretty comprehensive coverage, so that virtually each desk could be seen.  My first experience of intrusive remote management was when some senior managers took it upon themselves to use the CCTV to make sure all the staff were wearing name badges (when things like that mattered).  The union was fast to act on that one and got management to see that CCTV was not a tool to control us, but part of keeping us safe at work.  But lately there appears to be a bit of ‘mission creep’ among many managers.

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ICE – In Case of Emergency App – can save lives

As a personal case rep for over 20 years, I have represented many cases of domestic violence and abuse for both male and female members, and have trained with the Police and Crime Commissioners office to become a DVA Champion in the North East Region. Details of Champions are held on a database and email updates are regularly sent out with information of services and advice.


I have supported members in our workplaces to navigate through the DWP policy on Domestic Violence and abuse, which has often been ignored or just simply was
unknown to line managers. I have ensured all safety issues have been explored, and
implemented and supported my members, and also line managers, to deal with the
situation as it unfolds.

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Another case for a pay rise – Our high streets, as well as the jobs they generate, may disappear.

In the picturesque town of Llangollen in north-east Wales, there’s a pub called The Bull. My Dad and I used to go there occasionally, and each time he’d say something like “this is our family’s pub, Matt.” What he meant by that was that one of our distant ancestors owned it; my great-great-great-grandfather I believe.

If you drive from Llangollen in the direction of Acrefair on the A539, then eventually you’ll come to a turning for the Bryn Howell Hotel on the right-hand side. The Bryn Howell is (or was) a popular venue for functions and the older part of it used to be the home of a local business owner. The lounge bar is in that part of the hotel, and again, my Dad would regularly tell me “your great-great-uncle plastered the ceiling in this room, son.” In truth, I cannot remember which relation was the plasterer, but it is nevertheless an impressive ceiling.

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We will protect our members, you can all be assured of that

Paul Williams was invited to speak at a meeting hosted by People Before Profit in Swansea about the Covid outbreak in the DVLA.

“Thanks for arranging this meeting and I bring solidarity greetings from PCS to you all.

For those who may not know a vast majority of PCS members across the nations are currently working from home, that includes in my own area of DVSA where Driving Examiner members have been sent home, but as you may know obviously cannot work from home. That is testament to the work our PCS reps and officials have done in making sure our members are protected, and are safe.

However, there are a few areas where that has not been the case specifically in the Courts and of course in DVLA. And it shouldn’t be forgotten by the way, that our members don’t simply work for DVLA they are ultimately Government employees.

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Left Unity National Leadership endorses HMRC Pay Offer

Following extensive negotiations with PCS, HMRC published its long-anticipated Pay and Contract Reform offer on 1st February.

The offer is time limited. In order for HMRC to be allowed to access the money, they must meet the timescales set out in the 2020 Cabinet Office Pay remit. This means that if the deal is not both accepted and money paid to staff by 31st March 2021, then the offer will be withdrawn and any increase will be constrained by the Cabinet Office cap of 2% for 20/21 and 0% for 21/22.

The offer is a complex package, which offers substantial pay increases across the board, and in line with longstanding PCS policy, is weighted towards the lowest paid. In addition, the offer contains real gains to terms and conditions for all staff, including those on CSEP terms, new recruits and future joiners, however, we recognise that the offer does contain some unwelcome changes for staff recruited or promoted before CSEP terms came into force.

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