PCS LU on why you should vote YES to an independent Scotland

The Left Unity led PCS has done more than other unions to give its members a real chance to engage in the debate around the Scottish Independence Referendum. PCS has placed our “Alternative to Austerity” and our demands on jobs and conditions at the heart of our activity. Members have repeatedly told us that what they want above all else are high quality public services. It is precisely this issue – what kind of Scotland we want to live in – which is right at the heart of the debate.

Download the full PCS LU Scottish Referendum material here to distribute in your branches.

The referendum has generated a huge debate and is involving lots of people in politics for the first time. Many of them are PCS members, promoting the PCS Alternatives on the economy, welfare and the future of public services.

PCS Left Unity is strongly recommending that you vote YES. All the main Westminster parties, including Labour, are committed to austerity – the failed policies of cuts and privatisation that is destroying jobs, conditions and services and means a brutal dependency on foodbanks for many. Better Together only offers more of the same.

The SNP white paper “Scotland’s Future” doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t offer the socialist society we would like to see.  However it does offer a vision of a more progressive Scotland.  While supporting a YES vote we campaign for the policies that can secure a more fair and equal Scotland:

  • Fair pay and pensions
  • No privatisation: nationalisation of essential services and of banks
  • Council housing and investment in renewable energy
  • Repeal of the anti-trade union laws
  • Progressive taxation where all pay their fair share
  • A welfare system and National Health Service based on need

PCS Left Unity fully supports the right of the Scottish people to self-determination. We reject the idea that the referendum is about narrow nationalism, which it is not.  It is about democracy, and the legitimate wish of the people to decide their own political destiny.  It isn’t about the SNP, nor indeed about any one political party, but about the future governance of Scotland.  We will finally have the ability to elect a Parliament with full powers. We will finally be able to support candidates who will fight for the kind of socially just, fair and more equal Scotland we all want to live in, instead of one where even the provision of the most basic necessities is at risk.

“PCS has achieved significant gains for members in Scottish departments.  We have won a no-compulsory redundancy guarantee, with a public promise from the First Minister (FM) and Deputy FM to extend this to all Scottish civil servants following a YES vote.  We have defended reps facility time, secured a living wage for civil servants and a better deal on pay than that offered by Westminster.  With independence we could achieve so much more.  This is why I’m voting YES, and encouraging PCS members to vote YES” 

Cheryl Gedling PCS NEC, p/c

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Taking up the Fight in DWP

Fran HFollowing the re-election of a 100% Left Unity DWP GEC this year, at our group conference in May, delegates voted overwhelmingly to support the Left Unity motion EM5 which identified a range of DWP-specific issues where we now have the potential for a dispute with the employer and committed the incoming GEC to a campaign plan.

Members are clear that they’ve had enough of being under-valued and underpaid. Low pay, heath and safety, Attendance Management, Performance Management, compulsory postings, threats to discontinue the AA grade, threats of compulsory redundancy and the threat of privatisation are just some of the many serious issues facing members in DWP.

Pointless staff transfers, compulsory relocations and continued examples of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ shows the desperate need for more staff in DWP Operations. Over recent months PCS has reported more and more enforced moves from one part of the business to the other, then back again, wasting resource on retraining then moving staff again and again around the business in a clear case of panic management.

DWP describe some of these moves as ‘simple lift and drop exercises’. Left Unity negotiators have repeatedly argued that you cannot lift and drop our members and we will not accept it.

Unjustified closures like the one which has led to the dispute at Garston, highlight the nonsense of DWP’s resourcing strategies and the adverse impact that they have on our members’ lives.

The lack of proper consultation in some areas of DWP could lead us quickly into dispute over a range of ongoing health and safety concerns in our jobcentres, as tory policies on conditionality and sanctions become more harsh, and our claimants become more desperate, due to the very real threat of imposed destitution, it is only a matter of time before the increase in violent incidents we are experiencing, leads to someone being serious hurt or worse.

We see continued attacks on our members and the public alike, dressed up as ‘welfare reform’, which in reality, punish the poor for having the audacity to rely on social security.

If the government can persuade the public to accept, through constant villification and humiliation in the media, that the poor are responsible for their own conditions and are to blame for the situation that they find themselves in, then they can continue to drive through cuts and remove support, as demonstrated by the increased reliance on foodbanks and payday loan companies.

As socialists, we defend the welfare state. Left Unity policy is to fight for our members jobs and conditions certainly, but we also believe that it is fundamentally wrong to seek to make a profit out of the poorest and most vulnerable. That is why this government hate us and that is why we have to campaign to defend the sort of society we want to live in.

Privatisation is a massive threat to PCS members. Left Unity opposes all attempts to privatise our work. In November the government handed over DWP shared services to Steria, a company they own a 25% share in. By the spring members in 3 of the privatised sites, many long-serving civil servants, were told that they now face the dole queue.

Steria will offshore the work and have already employed the staff in unregulated countries abroad.This means our personal data, and that of MPs and ministers, will be handled there instead. We will challenge every proposed privatisation and our colleagues in shared services, Steria employees for now, are a stark reminder of why we need to.

We have a huge campaign agenda ahead of us but, working closely with the Left Unity leadership of the national union, PCS members are fiercely determined to stand together to exert the maximum pressure on DWP and the government to engage, make concessions and make DWP a decent place to work.

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Left Unity leading the fight back in Group campaigns

In groups across the union, Left Unity is at the forefront of organising and campaigning to fight back against austerity. Leading Left Unity members give updates from their groups not only on what we’re fighting against but how we can win.

Lorna MerryLorna Merry, HMRC Group President
In the HMRC Group, members walked out for the third time in 6 weeks in support of the jobs and staffing campaign. In the run up to the action, HMRC management refused to meet PCS and issued a series of messages to staff attacking PCS and pleading with members to break the strike. Their attempts to undermine the union backfired as members rightly saw their increasing desperation as an admission that PCS action was having an impact. The campaign continues with action short of strike.

Austin Harney, MoJ Group Member
PCS members had a one day strike on 30th June in Newport and Bootle, “work to rule” and solid picket lines against MoJ Shared Services’s plans to outsource, and probably, offshore most of the jobs to India. It boosted more recruits and closed the Bootle office! As the employer is not listening, there was an overall six days of further action since July 24th. It is a tough battle but these PCS members are serious!”

Eleanor Haven, Land Registry Group Member Elenor Haven
PCS in Land Registry has recently won some major concessions for our members. We have run a high profile campaign against the proposals to effectively privatise the agency; gaining the support not just of our members but also of industry professionals, campaigning organisations and cross party support in parliament.
As a result of our campaigning the proposals to privatise Land Registry have been shelved for at least the next year or two. PCS has also recently won an important Employment Tribunal on the contractual right of our members to pay progression.

Lawrence Dunn, Home Group Assistant Secretary
In the Passport Office, members are embroiled in a high profile campaign to fix the staffing problems which have caused massive backlogs this Summer and end HMPO’s status as the poorest paying member of the Home Office “family”.
Members participated in well supported strike action on July 28th which, despite the usual bluster and hand wringing from the Government and the sections of the media, received widespread support from members of the public who visited the various Passport Office’s on the day of the action.
The campaign continues and Left Unity members are leading on consulting members on an escalation over the coming months to tie in with the union’s targeted action strategy.

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Check off & the fight to defend our union

Fran picFran Heathcote, PCS DWP Group President and National Left Unity Organiser, explains the real motivation behind the threat to withdraw check off and how Left Unity within the Democracy Alliance NEC is fighting back

In an openly political attack on PCS, Francis Maude has told government departments that the age-old method of collecting union subs through salary, known as check-off, is “no longer desirable”.

PCS defends the right to check-off, an internationally recognised trade union right. PCS has offered to pay the cost of retaining check-off, which is a negligible amount. Withdrawal without sufficient notice and full access to members will be nothing more than union busting.PCS will oppose such union-busting with all appropriate means, including legal action where necessary.

There is clearly a political divide on this issue within government. The Tories remain committed to withdrawing check-off, hiding behind the story that it is for departments to decide, not them, whilst Maude bullies them into doing it anyway.The Lib Dems however, say that they are against the government proposal to withdraw check-off.

In the run up to the general election, this issue must be raised with all the main parties to expose the real motivation behind the government’s attack and secure commitments on trade union rights.

The Democracy Alliance NEC have agreed all members will be asked to make the switch to direct debit by April 2015. This is a huge challenge for every rep and activist in PCS and all groups are being asked to treat this work as their number one priority. There can be no exemptions – however, important personal cases, negotiations and day to day business is, all become academic if we have no members.

We must not allow this attack to severely impact on PCS’s ability to function, which is exactly what Maude wants. That is why we have to make this the responsibility of every rep and activist in PCS.

No excuses, no delay, ask every member to switch today – your union depends on it.

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Where next after July 10th?

public-sector-strike-july-10-2014PCS members once again demonstrated their support for the union’s campaign strategy by supporting the public sector strike on July 10, demanding an end to the pay freeze and a settlement that goes some way to make up for the drop in the value of civil service pay. If civil service pay had kept pace with inflation it would be £2300 higher than it is now. This more than justifies the reasonable PCS demand for a rise of £1200 or 5%, whatever is the higher.

PCS has consistently argued the best way to defeat the pay freeze and to defeat austerity is through joint coordinated industrial action across the public sector. The tremendous potential strength of our movement was demonstrate in the pensions dispute a few years ago but that opportunity was squandered when the TUC and some public sector union leaders surrendered pensions rights for a settlement on the government terms. This surrender had profound implications not only for those public sector workers who saw their pensions rights stolen but for the working class generally as it gave Cameron and Osborne the green light to go implement their austerity programme without the trade union movement organising action to stop the.

Since the pensions dispute the battle against cuts, privatisation and the pay freeze has at best been fragmented. PCS however has continued the fight principally at group level winning concessions across the board, including stopping major privatisations like that of Land Registry.

The Democracy Alliance national executive committee has based it’s strategy on conference policy, the fullest possible consultation with members and activists and with the departmental groups. The attacks on the public sector stem from the same source and that is why the union has always argued joint coordinated action is the best and most effective way to win. Important as joint coordinated action can be in challenging the government it must be the basis for achieving settlements that deliver results for all public sector workers, including, of course, PCS members.

The joint coordinated action across the public sector must be part of an integrated campaign with the launch of a fighting fund based on a voluntary levy, coordinated action across the departmental groups accompanied by targeted action designed to have a real impact on management’s operations.

Further coordinated action should organised in full discussions with the public sector unions and the detail of that action should be commonly agreed, not just announced by any one or group of unions and with commonly defined aims around the pay freeze and other demands around fair pensions and ending privatisation.

Building for the TUC demonstration in October and STUC demonstrations in October should be a priority for PCS and Left Unity activists. Left Unity groups in the regions, towns and cities are urged to hold meetings after the summer break to discuss the campaign and to build an effective fightback in the civil service, commercial sector, the pulic sector and across wider society.

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Vote YES for Fair Pay

pay_campaign_carousel_2The Left Unity led NEC is embarking on a ballot of members asking them to vote “Yes” in support of our campaign for a fair pay rise including a strike with other public sector unions on 10 July as voted on unanimously  by branches at our 2014 conference in May. Let’s use this ballot to strengthen our hand, build the strongest co-ordinated campaign in order to win for our members and win maximum support from members for this action

The governments continued attacks on public servants particularly on driving down pay as led to many having their pay in real terms cut by around 16%.

Left Unity has consistently argued that a co-ordinated approach with other public and civil service unions is the key to fighting these appalling attacks, so we welcome the fact that other unions are balloting for action and considering taking strike action on 10 July.

Left Unity supports the PCS campaign plan of:

  • Supporting co-ordinated strike action with other public sector unions – including a strike on 10 July 
  • Setting up  a fighting fund – based on a voluntary levy of members to give financial support for targeted action
  • Supporting  and co-ordinating action within employer groups
  • Supporting the “Britain Needs A Pay Rise” national demonstration on 18 October.
  • Launching a major campaign of lobbying MPs aimed at ending the public sector pay freeze.

Left Unity urges all members to liaise with colleagues in other public sector unions, build links and raise this issue through trades councils and campaigning bodies

BALLOT OPENS 12 JUNE

Left Unity urges all members to vote “YES” and build for a large yes vote with members and branches. Download campaign material from www.pcs.org.uk

Since the government announced a pay freeze in 2010 followed by a cap on increases we have seen only around a 6% rise in pay, but with increased pension contributions this has been virtually wiped out leaving a real terms cut of about 16%. With further pension increases and further pay caps due we are likely to continue to be worse off.

It has therefore never been more important to support the fight for the right to have a decent pay rise to protect and redress our living standards.

PCS and Left Unity have long argued for an Alternative to Austerity, an alternative based on tax justice, creating jobs to boost the economy and investing in areas such as housing, public transport and renewable energy. If the will was there the government could start investing in HMRC to collect the £120 billion estimated annual tax gap which would pay for better services in the NHS, Education, clear the deficit and with plenty left over to give hard working public sector workers a decent pay rise.

Instead the government gives their millionaire chums tax cuts while the rest of us pay with our jobs, pay and conditions.

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Janice Godrich: Use Your Vote – Vote For Democracy Alliance

Janice Godrich, Left Unity elected PCS National President

Janice Godrich, Left Unity elected PCS National President Janice Godrich, PCS President & National Chair of Left Unity, asks for your support and to vote Democracy Alliance. 

Dear member,

 I am writing to ask you to consider voting for myself and my Democracy Alliance colleagues in the PCS National elections that open on the 16th April so we can continue the hard work of protecting and advancing your interests. As we continue to resist the government’s attacks on our pay, jobs, terms and conditions and services it is important we re-elect a strong, experienced and dedicated team to defend you at work and stand up for you in these difficult times. PCS is at the forefront of building the widest possible alliances between public sector unions and within wider society to oppose the cuts. Your Democracy Alliance led National Executive Committee (NEC) ensures the union concentrates on the issues important to you.

 PCS members are right to be proud of their union’s campaigning response to this and the previous government’s attacks. Together we have fought hard to protect jobs, pay, terms and conditions and the valuable services we provide to the communities in which we live and work. Together we have fought hard to protect jobs and pensions. We will continue to work with you to achieve fair pay, protect jobs and pensions. Campaigning works. The Democracy Alliance will continue to work hard to protect members’ interests in these difficult times. Working with you we have: -

  • Negotiated a major national agreement on job protection that prevented thousands of compulsory redundancies
  • Campaigned hard against attacks on pensions and conditions
  • Stopped planned privatisations
  • Won millions of pounds  compensation for members facing problems at work
  • Fully supported departmental disputes that have consistently won concessions
  • Successfully launched a PCS UK wide credit union
  • Built unity with other unions including a major national cooperation agreement with UNITE, the biggest UK union
  • Promoted an Alternative to austerity which is supported throughout the union movement and beyond

My and the Democracy Alliance’s priorities are: -

  • Organise to defeat the attack on check-off.
  • Defend jobs, conditions and services.
  • End the pay freeze. For fair pay and equal pay.
  • Fair and adequate staffing to deliver services.
  • Oppose all privatisations and off-shoring.
  • Oppose attacks on trade union facilities. Defend those who defend members.
  • Fair pensions for all.
  • Improve conditions for call centre members.
  • Challenge discrimination, lack of childcare facilities, unfair sickness rules. Equality for all.
  • Oppose the discredited Performance Management system.
  • A welfare state that delivers for our families and communities.
  • Continue to campaign for our Alternative to austerity.
  • Build a financially strong, democratic, member led union.

Janice Godrich PCS President (personal capacity)

janicegodrich@twitter                 

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Fran Heathcote, DWP President, on why you should vote Left Unity

Fran HFran Heathcote, DWP President and Left Unity member, describes why its vital you vote LU in the DWP and help drive the vote out in your branch. DWP election materials are available from the top menu in the LU Groups section.

ORGANISING TO WIN

Ballot papers will be issued from Wednesday 23rd April and members may receive them as early as Saturday April 26th.Most members vote in the first few days so ideally they need to receive a Left Unity leaflet or Branch recommendation by Friday 25th April. You can use our ’4 steps to winning’ leaflet to maximise the vote for LU candidates.

FOR A FIGHTING LEADERSHIP SUPPORT LEFT UNITY

I am proud of the record of the Left Unity-led GEC in defending members against the attacks from both the government and the employer.

Whether it’s resisting threats of compulsory redundancy, gaining commitments to protect those Shared Services members whose jobs were privatised or securing major improvements to the facility time proposals, our approach has been to work closely with branches and regions.

Listening to the views of representatives across the union has been, and will remain, critical to the success of our campaigns.

Despite our past successes we cannot afford to be complacent. DWP members remain at the sharp end of this government’s attacks. In Shared Services we have the threat of offshoring which threatens jobs and the security of our personal data, new attendance management policies put more members at risk of dismissal and could affect any of us and privatisation continues to be high on this government’s list of priorities. We must also put all our efforts into addressing the threats posed by the removal of check-off.

With the general election looming in 2015, the reality is that the scale of the attacks we face is only likely to increase. Pay talks start soon and the further 1% cap is not enough and must be challenged. We must fight to get members the pay rise and progression they so desperately need.

We need a strong, experienced leadership to defend members in DWP and the people we serve – a leadership prepared to negotiate but one also willing to fight when necessary.

YOUR GEC

If we are re-elected I guarantee that we will keep listening and acting on your concerns.

We will continue to work closely with the national union under the leadership of Janice Godrich and Mark Serwotka, to put the full strength of DWP behind every campaign.

With your support we can win these elections

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What Left Unity activists can do to drive the vote out

LU HDLeft Unity has prepared a range of leaflets and tools to aid LU members & activists in driving the vote out in their area.

All activists should read the LU BEC guidance and the separate election handbook. These documentsset out step by step everything local Left Unity reps should be doing to get their members engaged in the elections and to convince them to elect a fighting leadership. We need every local activist to be involved. Just because we have won elections previously does not mean we can get complacent and the critical battles we are facing means we need to be delivering our message and getting members support now more than ever. The election needs to linked up with national & group campaigns and the issues that matter to members, showing them what we’ve achieved is because of the Democracy Alliance.  Remember, the bigger the turnout we get, the bigger the mandate we have to deliver action.

Election timeline:

-  Before April 18th Get your BEC to vote on supporting and recommending the Democracy Alliance slate in your workplace.
-  Put up Democracy Alliance posters on notice boards.
(Activists should also bear in mind departmental policies when distributing information and ensure they don’t fall foul of the rules.)
- Between 18th & 24th April, email out the branch recommendation, or alternatively edit it to suit your group or workplace
- Distribute the Democracy Alliance leaflet outside your workplaces the first week of the ballot. Ask your regional convener to get supplies of leaflets or ask for funding to get a print run.
- After April 24th Make sure members have received their ballot, send out reminders
-  1st May Send out final reminders to vote before ballot closes. Get those last few votes in, every one of them counts!

Make sure you send you co-ordinate with your regional and group Left Unity conveners, informing of your plans for your branch and offering to assist in leafleting or supporting other LU activists to ensure we cover as many branches as possible. If you need help in your branch or workplace, don’t be afraid to ask other LU reps for support. Its the areas we aren’t covering effectively that we need to know about the most.

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National ballot opening in less than two weeks

Gordon RIn preparation for the imminent national and group elections,  National Secretary Gordon Rowntree sets out preparations for the elections. Links to the materials can be found in the elections sub-menu found at the top and are available to order direct from regional convenors. If you’re an LU member and not on the LU mailing list, please contact Gordon at: gordonrowntree1960@googlemail.com

Ballot papers and election addresses will start being sent to members on Wednesday 16 April and must be returned by May so comrades need to start making sure that preparations are in place to maximise the vote.

Area meetings should be organised and target branches should be leafleted with the national leaflet that has been sent to regional convenors.

Comrades should try and get their Branch to adopt the Democracy Alliance slate and send out a branch recommendation to members. To help achieve this I have attached an electronic version of the branch pack which will be sent to all LU members and to workplaces which we have addresses for (edit: the branch checklist and election materials are available from the slates & elections menu above). Comrades are asked to follow the simple steps in the pack to ensure the maximum support for our candidates.

Regular messages will be sent out in the run up to and during the election and you should also check the website for updates. We will also be messaging on facebook and using our twitter account so please sign up to follow us.

Gordon Rowntree
National Secretary

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Left Unity is a faction within the Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) that is represented at every level of the union, from branches and workplaces to the National Executive Committee. We believe in a democratic and fighting union and have a proud history within PCS and its predecessor unions in delivering for members.