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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Chris Baugh re-elected Assistant General Secretary

Chris BaughOn Thursday 6th March, it was announced that Chris Baugh has been re-elected as PCS Assistant General Secretary and would like to pass on the following message to comrades:

“Thank you all for my nominations for Assistant General Secretary. No other candidate received the 15 nominations needed to stand and so I have been declared elected with 166 nominations. 

I believe the current leadership of the union is one of the best in the trade union movement. I am proud to be part of this leadership.  I am pleased to be given another term in office and look forward to working with Mark Serwotka and Janice Godrich over the next 5 years dealing with the many challenges that face PCS.

I urge you now to turn your efforts to the election of the Democracy Alliance President and NEC slate. 

We stand for: 

  • A strong democratic and fighting union 
  • A union which seeks to defend jobs, services, pay and conditions through negotiation but, where necessary, by taking action 
  • Opposition to the self-defeating coalition austerity programme which is driving working people into abject poverty 

There may be those in the union who disagree with the current leadership, what we are doing and what we stand for. But at no time do they say what, if anything, they would do differently. 

On April 16th ballot papers will be sent out for the President and NEC elections. I hope you will do everything you can to secure a decisive victory for the Democracy Alliance slate. This will send a clear message to the coalition government that we reject and will continue to resist their attacks on the union and its members. 

Thanks again for supporting me 

I ask you to support, vote for and work for the election of the Democracy Alliance candidates”

Chris Baugh

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PCS Left Unity meeting in Scotland open meeting

cropped-pcslu.jpgHow trade unionists should approach the independence debate
 &
Re-elect a socialist PCS leadership

PCS Left Unity is holding an open meeting to discuss how we as trade unionists should be approaching the independence debate on the eve of the crucial PCS Scottish Branch Consultation conference. All Left Unity members and supporters should attend to discuss the referendum and conference, as well as how we organise to re-elect a fighting, socialist leadership in the upcoming PCS national elections . A leaflet for the meeting can be download here.

Date        Friday 21st February
Venue     Brutti Compadres
3 Virginia Court
Glasgow G1 1TS
Time        5pm – 7pm

Speakers:    Chris Baugh        PCS Assistant General Secretary (p/c)
                       Janice Godrich   PCS President (p/c)
Chair:           Cheryl Gedling   PCS NEC (p/c)

 

 

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Left Unity responds to last minute right wing candidate

Lynda Priestly, the current right wing HMRC group president, last week announced that she was “fed up” with the current PCS leadership and had decided to stand for Assistant General Secretary against the Democracy Alliance candidate and Left Unity incumbent Chris Baugh. This was followed by an attack against the PCS leadership, Left Unity and the democratic decisions made by reps & members at conference, ballots and consultations.

What Lynda Priestly doesn’t tell you is she:

-       Supports Government austerity and cuts, describing it as “Done properly and fairly, it’s one few can argue against in the current climate”
-       Offers no alternative strategy or campaign on how to defend member’s jobs, pay and terms & conditions
-       As HMRC Group President tried to block campaigns on key member’s issues, such as the threat of job losses
-       Says nothing on what she will campaign for if elected, choosing instead to claim the current leadership is simply “unrepresentative”

Chris Baugh

Chris Baugh standing for a fighting, member led union

In response to the attack, Left Unity has produced the below statement, that can also be downloaded in full as a leaflet for distribution here.

In comparison to the right wing, the Democracy Alliance candidate, Chris Baugh, has a proven track record of fighting for members and being at the forefront of campaigning (check out Chris’s election page here) on issues from compulsory redundancies to defending victimised reps.

Left Unity asks that you nominate Chris Baugh for Assistant General Secretary and support the Democracy Alliance National Executive slate, for a fighting, member-led PCS.

——————————————————————

PCS NATIONAL ELECTIONS

 NOMINATE CHRIS BAUGH FOR A POSITIVE CAMPAIGNING DEMOCRACTIC

ASSISTANT GENERAL SECRETARY

Chris Baugh is the Democracy Alliance candidate for Assistant General Secretary (AGS) a post he currently holds. He is part of the team, with Mark Serwotka (General Secretary) and Janice Godrich (National President), who have built PCS into a union that fights for your interests wherever you work.

Chris Baugh is seeking re-election as AGS but Lynda Priestley has decided to oppose him. This leaflet is a response to Lynda Priestley’s declaration and explains why we do not believe Branches should nominate her.

Chris is as an activist with over 30 years’ experience, he knows first-hand the issues facing members and reps in the workplace and is a experienced, strong, and skilful negotiator. Chris has wide support from union reps across PCS. He has consistently shown leadership, commitment and support when members are forced to campaign and take action in defence of their interests at work. Chris has played an important part in winning gains for members, not least on protecting jobs against compulsory redundancy. In his term as AGS Chris has also contributed regularly to the unions campaign fund and donated a day’s salary each time PCS members take national strike action.

Chris’s priorities are  -

  • Fighting for fair pay and pensions
  • Fight for the widest alliance amongst public sector trade unions to defeat the pay freeze and attacks on
    services and jobs
  • Oppose all privatisation and off-shoring
  • Ensure the full weight of the union is used to defend any member threatened with compulsory redundancy
  • Oppose the discredited Performance Management and punitive sickness absence policies that have created such stressful conditions in the workplace. I will continue to direct support and resources to members targeted and lead a national fight for a fair and healthy work environment
  • Will fight to win permanent jobs and oppose fixed term and zero hours contracts. I will continue to challenge a two-tier workforce
  • Lead and build a national campaign to establish decent standards in every contact centre where PCS members are employed
  • Continue to fight discrimination. Build on the good work already done to build equality and inclusion.

Last minute right wing candidate emerges

Late in the day a right wing opponent has emerged seeking branch nominations. Lynda Priestly, the current right wing HMRC group president declared last week on a right wing blog that she had decided over the Christmas Holidays that she was “fed up” with the current PCS leadership and had decided to stand. Lynda, who has never been a national elected rep, used her announcement to launch an extraordinary attack on her own union.

Lynda says she is “fed up” with the current leadership but offers not one single policy alternative the policies your union leadership are implementing and fails to mention that the policy of PCS, as decided at your conference and at the national executive itself, have been fully supported and voted for by her allies.

Her announcement to stand does not contain one policy issue and she completely silent on how the union should deal with the difficult issues facing members and reps. It is a statement entirely devoid of any commitments or anything positive. It does not contain one policy issue, one pledge, one priority, one workplace issue. She fails to offer any leadership or answers to how the union should deal with the difficult issues facing members and reps in their workplaces every day. Just as she failed to offer any tangible support to campaigns in her own Group to save workplace nurseries, fight the closure of enquiry centres or to protect low paid members on fixed term contracts from redundancy

While Lynda attacks hardworking PCS reps, attacks staff of the union and PCS democracy, the only people who escape attack are the government and the employer – the very people responsible for the attacks on members and the union.

One could be mistaken for thinking that she doesn’t have a strategy for opposing this Government and their ongoing attacks on our members, but her regular group presidents column suggests that her failure to offer a meaningful opposition stems more from her agreement with the Tories economic analysis, and a belief that Trades Unions should collaborate with employers in cooperation and partnership, regardless of the attacks that they pursue against our members.

On the Government’s cuts agenda, Lynda says that “Austerity is an interesting concept, framed as a solution for economic instability. Done properly and fairly, it’s one few can argue against in the current climate”. PCS campaigns against Austerity because it is economically illiterate, divisive, damaging to public services and damaging to our members. The PCS alternative, developed by this Democracy Alliance leadership has drawn widespread support from across the trade union movement and beyond for an economic alternative to austerity based on investment, public sector spending, job creation and fair taxation.

Lynda claims without offering any evidence that union finances are “far from healthy “This is at best an attempt to mislead union members and undermine confidence in the union. In a period where membership has fallen, entirely due to civil service cuts, the skilful stewardship of union finances by AGS Chris Baugh and the national executive has meant the books not only balance but are expected to be in surplus. This has enabled PCS to fund all of our branches, regions and groups, escalating legal costs and personal case costs to represent members and our vital campaigns on the issues that matter to members.

There are thousands of planned job cuts in HMRC, as a high grade civil servant whose job is to implement the department’s transformation strategy Lynda should know the seriousness of this issue. Yet she has sought to prevent the HMRC GEC discussing a response to this major attack on members’ jobs. She had to be forced to even call a meeting by the pressure of Left Unity GEC members exercising their right under standing orders.

It is also regrettable that Lynda, a group president, seeks to use government’s attacks on the check-off facility as an opportunity to attack her own union. The threat to check off is a political attack on an internationally recognised union by a vengeful government. Her claim it was “hardly a bolt from the blue”, that the union didn’t plan ahead and “buried its collective head in the sand” is simply not true. Plans to move to direct debit were advanced following democratic agreement across the whole union. The quick response by the union to this threat has been met with praise and determination by reps and members alike. Members would expect someone who seeks high office in PCS to be more in touch.

Any serious candidate seeking to stand for high office needs to demonstrate a proven track record and a vision for the union. – she appears to have demonstrated neither. PCS members will rightly demand far higher standards from their AGS than what is contained in her brief proclamation. She says it’s time for a change but in reality she hankers for a return to the days of right-wing control when the union bowed before the employer and left reps and members vulnerable.

The Democracy Alliance NEC and Chris Baugh who is supported by the Democracy Alliance have always been open and honest with members and reps. Chris is part of a team that has built a union of vibrant confident reps, a union that respects conference policy and union democracy and has challenged austerity policies and fought for tax justice and defended jobs and public services.  We have debated our ideas openly in the union and at conference with a  respect for alternative views, however Lynda Priestly, by her lack of vision, lack of policies and lack of respect for union democracy cannot provide the strong, clear and democratic leadership PCS members need and deserve.

Please nominate Chris Baugh for Assistant General Secretary, Janice Godrich for National President  and  the Democracy Alliance NEC candidates – full details of which can be found at :  www.leftunity.org.uk            www.pcsdemocrats.org.uk

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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.