I have been involved and anti-racism and equalities all my life, and in roles outside the civil service I have had jobs in organisations working with Black voluntary organisations, asylum seekers, refugees’ migrants, and equalities. This included advocacy and liaising with funders, local authorities, government and statutory agencies as well as with the CRE/EHRC, Citizen’s advice, Law Centres, legal representatives and trade unions. In addition to this I have been on various committees addressing relevant and cross-cutting issues, as a volunteer and as an elected rep. As an activist I have also helped to organise relevant campaigns and events, protests, spoken at them or attended to support.
Over my career in the Civil Service, I have worked in Benefits Agency, Child Benefit, DWP, CSA and Child Maintenance before joining HMRC. Since joining HMRC I have been very active within the union. I have been able to do this now as I am now 53, and have more time as my daughter is now an adult. In previous times within the civil service I was working part time after becoming a parent, and as a single parent concentrated on that and later also did part time study at university.
I am actively involved within the union as Branch Equality Officer , in NW Regional Committee & Black Members Network , HMRC Equalities Advisory Groups and I am the current Vice-Chair of the National Black Members Committee. Equality is at the heart of the union and influences everything that affects our membership.
I am now 53 and in my mid 40’s I became partially deaf. As a Black, working class, socialist woman I understand the importance of recognising our Intersectionality. We each have our own unique intersectionality and do not fit under one umbrella alone, and this can change as we age, become parents or carers, or become affected by illness, etc. This also underpins the importance of unions being there for members, as circumstances can change all the time.
This includes pushing for the implementation of Equality Impact Assessments on issues that affect our members and in the times of this pandemic risk assessments that include risks to groups that research shows are more vulnerable to Covid, reasonable adjustments, ensuring as many staff as possible can work from home, have the equipment that they need and are supported if not feasible to go into the office or work from home, and making the case that people who may have potentially be leaving due to relocation of workplace can work from home and remain.
It also includes working to increase the representation and diversity within our union. We know that women make up the majority of our membership but often this is not reflected in proportion of women as elected officers. This can be for many reasons, often like I have indicated myself in the past one reason for not being actively involved was due to caring commitments, but there are many reasons as to why this occurs, as of course it does regarding others in our diverse communities and in protected groups. In my branch we have an active Women’s Forum and secured agreement to enable any woman member interested to undertake the unions Women’s course, and have structured branch executive meetings to take into account most accessible time and days for meetings, and frequency that addresses issues such as school terms. More recently this has led to utilising technology to connect with all members around themes affecting them during the pandemic.
As Vice chair of the National Black Members Committee (NBMC) I have been active in promoting the role of PCS Advocate to members to encourage them to become more involved, as well as mentoring and providing information on the union, structures and roles, and encouraging people to join the union.
In the NBMC early last year we had already created proposals to utilise technology to engage with the membership more and enable a more intersectional pan equality reach. The pandemic has led to accelerating the use of technology, and enabled all of us to have much more interaction.
Last year the NBMC organised our first all members Zoom and Facebook live events on Black Lives Matter is a trade union matter and Impact of Coronavirus on Black Workers. As well as ensuring that the annual Black Members Seminar was still held by delivering it online. Additionally, we have been able to engage with branches, regions, town councils and groups via zoom, and this will continue.
Throughout the challenges of the pandemic the NBMC has continued to advocate for our members, challenge racism and fascism, campaign, and develop resources. This includes Raising awareness of the PCS 24 Hour Racial Incidents Hotline, contributing to the 2020 review of PCS Anti-racism/Anti-fascism (ARAF) strategyGeorge Floyd
In HMRC Group in the Black Members, Disabled & Women’s Advisory Groups there has been work on the HMRC Race Disparity Audit, Black Lives Matter, Covid support, reasonable adjustments, Women’s representation, period poverty and issues arising from the regional centres programme. Collaboration with advisory groups and reps has enabled wins and positive outcomes for our members, and widening and developing knowledge.
As current Chair of the Black Members Advisory Group I have led on arranging an all-members TEAMS meeting and a Black Member’s Zoom on engagement with HMRC on race equality, starting in the 1st UK Race Equality Week in February. Working with Deputy President Hector Wesley I have enabled regular meetings to look at the Pan Equalities Agenda with the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the equalities advisory groups, and developing proposals for member networks in HMRC across the equality groups to enable more grassroots member involvement. I have also regularly attended GEC meetings and worked with the GEC to represent on equality issues.
Regionally as Co-Convenor of the NW Black Members Network we arranged in June for 4 weekly Covid Drop-In sessions for Black members open to all regions and nations, this continued with a week of online events for Black History Month and within the region there has also been Pride Pods focusing on LGBT+ issues and weekly activities from the Disabled Members Network during Disability History Month. Using technology has also enabled me to continue to speak at events which I would usually be attending personally prior to Covid restrictions via Zoom on equality issues including anti-racism, Holocaust memorial, austerity, Black Lives Matter and trade union issues. It also enables us to engage with more campaigns and contributors and raise awareness and support for them. We can see from the pandemic it will be some time before
Over more than 10 years Civil Servants pay has been affected by austerity. During the ongoing pandemic Civil Servant’s status as essential workers has never been clearer, ensuring vital services are running, support and payments to businesses, self-employed, low paid, vulnerable people, job seekers and the disabled were delivered. As well as maintaining collection of payments to the Treasury that finance these crucial services.
Despite this recovery from the pandemic is being used as a rationale to extend pay freezes. Our members need a decent pay rise, everyday living costs are going up, and we know directly from members that they are struggling, and even had to use food banks when they work for the government of the 6th richest country in the world. It should not be this way. The PCS Tax Justice Campaign shows the money the treasury lose out on every year due to tax avoidance by international companies, whilst vital services are cut, pay is frozen and small businesses pay in comparison to income significantly more. I will continue to support this campaign, public sector pay increases, social justice, climate emergency action, pro equalities, anti-racism and representing our members interests, growing and sustaining our union.
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