Left Unity has an organising record to be proud of, but much more to do

Marie (pictured, right) at the rally to save DWP Vinovium House, in Bishop Auckland, Saturday 18th March 2017

Marie McDonough, PCS DWP group organiser and DWP City of Sunderland branch Secretary writes.

Union organising is a key socialist principle that Left Unity is founded on and committed to.
2016 was a year when the Left Unity DWP Group has an organising record to be proud of but we are clear that there is still much more to do.

The backbone of organising is having trained reps in the office. The Left Unity GEC trained 160 new reps and 56 reps on personal cases.

There are now 1698 individual PCS reps in the DWP doing a job for the union and for members. Whilst this figure is very slightly down over the year, the key figure is that over 96% of members work in an office with a PCS rep to lead campaigns, tackle management and help members with problems.

To do their job our reps need information. The Left Unity led GEC has collected the personal data of over 80% of our reps and over 60% of our members so that we can get union information to them without relying on DWP email.

To be credible the union must reflect the diversity of the membership. Under the Left Unity led GEC for the first time ever, virtually 50% of PCS reps in the DWP are women. A figure replicated at group level by the election of our current GEC.

All of this good, sound organising work means that the DWP Group has been able to play a leading role in national campaigns on the CSCS and job cuts.

The Left Unity led DWP GEC is proud to have worked with Regional Organisers and branches to make our union well organised throughout 2016. The credit for much of this great organising must go to those regions and branches for working with the Left Unity GEC.

Despite these real achievements membership density has fallen after the end of check off to around 60% and this is where there is still much to do.

The Left Unity led GEC fully recognises and acknowledges the seriousness of the problem and has already taken plenty of steps to help branches recruit non-union members –

• We negotiated better rights for reps to recruit desk to desk for the first time.

• Branch briefings have been issued with recruitment materials

• A new hub has been put on the PCS website with recruitment and guidance

• Full Time Officials are being used to support branches

We are not complacent, we have been honest with branches about the problem and recruitment to PCS is now starting to pick up in early 2017.
Left Unity is clear that we have, and will continue, to provide help and support for branches but in the end recruitment can only be done on the ground in offices by our reps making it a priority.

Every branch and every rep must treat recruitment as their overriding priority. Personal cases are important but the real strength of the union comes from high membership density. There is much more to do, but by working together we can build our membership back up to the 70% that was common before the end of check-off.
Support Left Unity, Support a serious organising agenda that delivers for members and strengthens our union.

Posted in Uncategorized

DWP members are very much part of the National Pay Campaign

Martin Cavanagh on pay in DWP

DWP Vice President and NEC member Martin Cavanagh writes about how DWP members still have a battle to fight on pay, despite Employee Deal.

The DWP Left Unity leadership have been clear from day one of the Employee Deal, that our members would still play an important role in the National Pay Campaign launched by the National Executive Committee (NEC).

We have been clear at both NEC and Group Executive Committee (GEC) meetings that not only would this be the case, but that it was vitally important that members in DWP play an active part in the campaign, which will see a day of protest across the country this Friday (31st March).

Despite this unequivocal message our political opponents in Independent Left have cynically produced an article suggesting otherwise. They have claimed that a recent group circular “stops most of us from getting involved” and goes on to say “the vast bulk of members in the DWP will not be involved in the national pay campaign”. Not only is this cynical, leading members of IL were present at both NEC and GEC meetings when this was discussed, it is blatantly untrue and shows the lengths they will go to mislead our members into accepting their line.

A further group bulletin was issued today highlighting exactly why this important national campaign was very much a DWP issue and highlighted the reasons why all members in DWP should join in the protests this coming Friday and why branches should get involved.

Unlike the IL article, which solely criticises an earlier bulletin and does nothing to try and convince members of why they should participate, the LU leadership of the GEC has articulated exactly why we should all get behind the campaign. It is typical of IL to criticise rather than offer any ideas of their own, and shows contempt for our membership, who have always stood up and been counted when it matters.

The article repeats what the LU GEC stated last year, when we completed the widest ever direct consultation with the DWP membership, in highlighting the issues faced by those members who fared less well out of the Employee Deal, but significantly it fails to mention any of the real gains in pay our members received as a result of LU led negotiations. In reading their propaganda you could be forgiven for thinking the 15-20% increase in many members’ pay over four years, the return of real pay progression and the negotiated spot rate didn’t form part of the Collective Agreement.

Incredibly the IL article asks if the PCS DWP pay team will “recommend pulling out of the Employee Deal on the basis it doesn’t deliver the 1% plus to all members?” failing to address what would happen if that approach was taken. Left Unity are clear that had we failed to negotiate last year’s agreement the significant pay increases the majority of our members received, the introduction of a spot rate and the return of pay progression, would not have been achieved. We are equally clear that the 0.25% paid to members who chose to opt-out of the deal would have disappeared, with 0% a very real possibility.

The LU led GEC will not be withdrawing from the ED Collective agreement that members overwhelmingly voted for last year. Instead we will concentrate on campaigning to bring up the rates of pay for those who didn’t do as well out of the agreement and on fully implementing the terms of the Collective Agreement with regard to working patterns.

The Left Unity PCS pay negotiators have already used the terms of the Collective Agreement to raise the issues of pay for members who opted out, work in SLPZs or are on or near the max, who will suffer as a result of the recent rises in inflation.

Left Unity, unlike Independent Left, will not accept defeat and claim the national campaign is dead in our department. Instead we will continue to campaign on these issues for members and Friday 31st March is part of that campaign.

Equally we will not be so dismissive of the need to pursue decent increases for our members in grades SEO and above, which barely gets a mention in the article. Somewhat of a surprise given the IL DWP candidate for Group President is in fact an SEO.

Left Unity in DWP achieved a major breakthrough last year on pay, addressing the pay inequality with other government departments, but there is much more to be done. We must continue to both negotiate and campaign, with the aim of improving pay, breaking the Government pay cap and introducing pay progression for all our members. Until that is achieved activities like Friday’s protests are an integral part of our campaign strategy, and we are confident members will overlook the negativity of the IL argument and will join with tens of thousands of fellow Civil Servants this Friday in solidarity.

Posted in Uncategorized

PCS Left Unity says: Join the Pay Protest 31st March – say no to the pay cap

Break the 1% Pay cap

The Democracy Alliance-led NEC calls for all reps and members to get involved in the fight to break the cap

No wonder we are angry! Austerity and hardship for us – the highlife for the 1%.

George Osborne, ex-chancellor and architect in chief of the pay cap, has just been appointed editor of the London Evening Standard, salary unknown. He will remain as an MP pocketing £74,000 pa for this, £800,000 for 15 speeches, £650,000 for spending 1 day a week with an American bank, oh, and let’s not forget £40,000 from the family business. The picture for public sector workers could not be more different.

•​ The Independent think-tank (Resolution Foundation) says the wages of 5.4 million public sector workers are worth less now than in 2010 and if things carry on as they are that by the end of the decade wages will on average be £1700 lower than in 2010.
•​ PCS’s own independent research shows that civil servants’ average earnings have fallen by 8% and if things carry on as they are that by the end of the decadeaverage civil service pay will fall in value by 20%

These staggering statistics underline the reason as to why the pay cap must end and why PCS are entirely justified in submitting a claim for 2017 for a pay increase of 5% or £1200, whichever is the greater, a living wage of at least £10 per hour for all and the return to national bargaining for all staff in the civil service and related bodies.

The union needs to consider all options available to it including building co-ordinated action within and between groups and public bodies as part of a civil service wide campaign against the pay cap.

Our pay misery is shared by all public sector workers. Which is why PCS has called on the TUC to implement the policy agreed at its 2016 conference to back and coordinate action across public sector trade unions to bury the pay cap. This government did a U-turn on self-employed National Insurance increases. Action by unions across the public sector can achieve a similar result in abolishing the pay cap imposition.

On 31st March, get involved in pay protest action. Demonstrate our anger and determination to achieve justice on pay and break the pay cap.

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LU statement on state collusion against trade unionist activists

John Macreadie

John Macreadie, Terry Adams and other activists were hated by the Moderates in CPSA because they could organise members, campaign and win.

STATEMENT FROM THE LEFT UNITY NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON STATE COLLUSION IN TRADE UNIONS

On Monday 13th March, The Morning Star newspaper led with an article entitled “Thatcher’s War on the Unions”, based on Cabinet Office papers released under the 30 year rule. The article details, how the Thatcher Government in collusion with Right Wing Union leaders plotted to overturn the election of John Macreadie as General Secretary of the Civil and Public services Association (CPSA) in 1986, forerunner of PCS. John was a supporter of Militant (now Socialist Party) and Broad Left (now Left Unity).

Left Unity members will be angered and outraged by these revelations. Scandalous about John Macreadie as they are, the likelihood is that he was not the only civil service union left activist to have been targeted in this way by security forces/government members. There is evidence of state interference in the running of free and independent trade unions.

Before the left won power in PCS, the CPSA national executive was controlled by the right wing “Moderate” faction.. The “Moderates” had proven links to the state, security services and big business, They maintained control by abusing democracy and colluded with the government in attacking left activists, including sackings and victimisations. The Moderates systematically misused the union machinery and worked with the right-wing press to run smear campaigns to attack the left in CPSA.

At the time, current PCS Ass Gen Sec, Chris Baugh, was named in The Sun newspaper along with John Macreadie and 4 others including Doreen Purvis one of our current Member Trustees, as dangerous subversives. Allegations were made by John Ellis, CPSA’s right-wing General  Secretary in a blatant attempt to encourage the government to move against John Macreadie who had been elected Dep Gen Sec, and  other named activists. The Broad Left had won control of the NEC in May 1987.

So, what else was the government up to and who else did they target? Cabinet papers released in 2014, again under the 30 year rule, revealed discussions between the Secret Service, Cabinet Secretary William Armstrong, and Ministers about how they might carry out a “purge” of CPSA left activists and supporters of the Militant.

What is of concern to us today is that these scandalous witch-hunting activities have almost certainly not ceased. The left will be targeted as we are committed to defending jobs, conditions and services as we argue for an alternative to the profit system. For example it was only in 2015 that union busting plans were leaked, referring to Left Unity and showing HMRC had targeted PCS and in particular its left activists with further evidence emerging that they were colluding with right wing activists in a failed attempt to set up the scab RCTU. We must continue to resolutely oppose such attacks.

We demand that an independent public enquiry set up to expose the extent of these outrages. It must identify those responsible, and the individual left activists affected including an assessment of the damage done to their careers. In the light of what we know about the police spying on trade union and political activists, as we saw at Orgreave and the massive blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry, we should work with other unions and PCS should seek co-participant status in the Pitchford inquiry. The time has come to open the secret anti-union files to public scrutiny. .

Left Unity stands for the right for trade unions to be run democratically by their members and free from interference from the state and the employer. We urge all members and activists to unite on this issue and reaffirm this right at our ADC in May.

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March to defend DWP Vinovium House, Bishop Auckland

Group President Fran Heathcote speaks at a rally in Barrow against the closure of that office. Local branch secretary Kris Houghton (pictured) and other reps were supported by the Barrow Trades Council and other unions.

The Left Unity-led PCS DWP Group Executive Committee continue to provide full support to branches and offices campaigning against closure. Vinovium House in Bishop Auckland is one of the eleven hotspot sites across DWP in Scotland, England and Wales where redundancies are feared.

Durham County branch have been mounting a determined campaign to mobilise members so that the employer is in no doubt that there will be a fight, unless the concerns of members are addressed. Specific negotiations are on-going with DWP, to protect the hotspot sites. Below is the leaflet being used for the demonstration planned for Saturday 18th March.

Bishop Auckland joins Glasgow branches and Cumbria branch, who held demonstrations on 11th March.

Also included below is the text from the local MPs press release, which shows that political pressure from PCS members locally continues to yield results. DWP must take full account of local circumstances and change their proposal to close Vinovium House.

Bishop Auckland office anti-closure campaign

Helen Goodman MP raises serious concerns in Parliament around DWP office closure in Bishop Auckland and the effect on families.
No Job Centre Closure – March in Bishop Auckland on 18th March

Speakers: Helen Goodman MP, Joy Allen Bishop Auckland Counsellor and Charlotte Metcalf PCS DWP Durham Branch Secretary
Assemble 11:30 at Vinovium House for March – Rally 12.30 Market Place

Helen Goodman MP, parliamentary representative of Bishop Auckland has raised serious concerns around the proposed closure of local DWP offices. Responding to Damien Green MP, Minister for Employment.
Ms Goodman raised in Parliament last night during an adjournment debate the plight of families affected by the ‘highly controversial’ reforms to Child Support introduced by the Government last year which have left 1.1m cases in the CSA system and arrears totalling £3.4bn:
”It is vital for those million families’ welfare –probably 1.5 million children that this money is recovered and paid to them. There is no published plan for how the debt cases will be administered at Vinovium House if the closure goes ahead. The team at Vinovium House had secured the debt work until 2020.
”What exactly is the Department’s plan? How does it intend to run it or is the plan to let the old child support system wither on the vine, irrespective of the impact on the 1 million families receiving their money?”
Also advocating for children and families in poverty, Helen said:
“Child poverty is increasing under this Government, and further delays in Department for Work and Pensions systems for child support will undoubtedly tip some families over the edge.” “

There has been no proper equality impact assessment of the proposed closure. 64 staff are women, the vast majority of whom work part time close to home as they have caring responsibilities for children in nearby schools and elderly parents.
Helen’s speech highlights the impact on these families:
“The Tory party claims to be the party of the family. This change will adversely affect at least 85 families and will have a devastating impact. The underlying issues are travel times and costs, the lack of affordable childcare and the fact that most people who work at Vinovium House combine their job with some caring responsibilities. Many work part-time close to home, as they have caring responsibilities for children or elderly parents.”

In a letter to Employment Minister Damien Green MP, Helen outlines how the loss of the DWP office will be a blow to the local community and economy of Bishop Auckland.
“We have already lost our courts, HMRC offices and driving test centre. The staff are extremely well respected – they were a top 5 office when they administered incapacity benefit and are currently the highest performing office. They are 100% committed to the local area shown through the phenomenal fundraising that they do for the area which reflects positively on local perception of the Department for Works and Pensions. Recent receipts show that staff at Vinovium House have contributed over £4,000 in the town centre in the last two weeks …so the local shops would suffer.”
The local DWP group has calculated that the receipts for the local area would equate to £95333.33 lost to the local economy in a year should the DWP staff be removed from the DWP office in Bishop Auckland.
Helen raised the matter in the Adjournment debate yesterday:
“The one-to-one interviews currently being conducted are a sham. Staff are being asked to say whether they are willing to be transferred to other jobs or to leave on voluntary redundancy but they are not being told where else they might work”
• Ms Goodman challenged Caroline Noakes, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Welfare Delivery to do more to understand the impact of the proposed changes.
“I strongly suggest that the Minister’s officials stop looking on Google Maps and that she send them up to the north to start looking at the geographical problems. Let them try to get a bus at 8 o’clock in the morning to Washington, near Sunderland, or to Newcastle, and get back in time ​to collect children from school at 3 o’clock. It is frankly impossible.”

Helen went on to say:
“The DWP guide for staff travel is 1 hour, how many sites are available for staff to transfer to within an hour of travel by public transport?”
Caroline Nokes MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in her reply acknowledged:
“DWP staff are our most valuable asset” and conceded “the High performance of the staff at this location”. She added that “Closure of Vinovium House is still only a proposal at this stage and we are continuing the consultation process with our staff to assess how each might be affected”
However, in a letter to Damien Green, Helen Goodman questioned the reassurance of this being ‘only a proposal’ given that the Medical Service examination staff are currently being informed of a new place of work.

Editors notes:
1. Details for the march including speakers: Gather at 11:30 outside of Vinovium House, 12:00 start of the march, 12:30 Rally at the market place. Speakers will include Helen Goodman MP for Bishop Auckland, Joy Allen Local Counsellor, Charlotte Metcalf PCS Branch Secretary for DWP Durham Branch
2. The EDM tabled by Helen Goodman MP is here: https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2016-17/1001
For more information on the Campaign to stop the closure at Bishop Auckland contact
Steve Swainston on : 07968 830 215 or email voodoosteve[at]gmail.com

Posted in Uncategorized

Thatcher plot against the left in CPSA

Thatcher plot to crush union leader

Morning Star front page

One of the predecessor unions of PCS, the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA) was famous in the trade union movement as a battleground between the right-wing of the labour movement and the left wing. Today’s Morning Star throws light on what went on.

Secret meetings between leaders of the unions and a hated Tory government, to discuss how to deal with members of the Militant (now the Socialist Party) like John Macreadie were just the tip of an iceberg that involved collaboration to get union reps sacked when they led strikes. These union reps weren’t troublemakers or spies, they were ordinary members organising in their workplace.

Referenced in the article is John Ellis’ famous smear in the Sun on September 18, 1987, which attacked “lefties” in the union. The “dirty half dozen” included current PCS Assistant General Secretary and LU member Chris Baugh. Chris’ hard work on the NEC has been instrumental in securing a collective agreement protecting apprentices in the Civil Service from the current Tory government.

Thanks to the work of the Broad Left in CPSA, and PCS Left Unity, the union is open and democratic. The number of unelected senior positions has been whittled down dramatically, and elected lay reps exercise control of the union at all levels. We have an elected left General Secretary proud to stand up for our members rather than attacking them in an anti-worker rag like the Sun.

Instead of having to spend our time fighting against our own union, to force it to take the concerns of members seriously, the NEC and Group Executive Committees are instructed by annual conference. The Left Unity members elected to NEC or GEC carry out these instructions as a matter of principle.

Famously, one year, the old right wing leadership of the union conspired to settle a pay claim by balloting members whilst the activist reps were at conference and voting to oppose settlement of the claim. The continuing success of PCS Left Unity in the elections each year is what ensures that this never happens again.

Thatcher’s attitude shows how dangerous the government thought the socialist left in the Civil Service. That hasn’t changed, as the attack on members paying their subs by check-off shows – a union busting tactic that was also considered by Thatcher.

The clear threat posed by the Left-leadership of PCS is shown in the withdrawal of facility time for members of the NEC. It is shown in the documents leaked from HMRC that outline a conscious union-busting strategy. It is now further shown in the attempt by Civil Service departments to not recognise the union in the privatised areas that are being renationalised. Instead of bringing these workers back into the Civil Service, with full union rights, the government wants to override TUPE laws and de-recognise PCS in these areas. The union’s Left leadership and reps will campaign fiercely against this.

There should be one, united left in PCS. The right to tendency in PCS Left Unity ensures that minority opinions on the left are heard, where consensus cannot be arrived at. The annual elections to LU national committee, and elections to the slate of candidates put forward for NEC and GEC and other posts ensure the maximum possible unity, and protect the activist, lay-led traditions of the union.

We call on members to vote for all Left Unity candidates in the coming election. We call on all socialists and activists intent on opposing Tory austerity and building the fight back to join PCS Left Unity.

Posted in Elections

London Mayor opposes DWP office closures

PCS’ DWP group executive committee has received a copy of the letter from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to Damian Hinds, Minister of State for Employment, on the closure of the DWP offices in London. In particular, the London Mayor has opposed outright closure of jobcentres as a failure to “address inequality and tackle disadvantage” in the city.

 

Letter from Sadiq Khan

Letter from Sadiq Khan

The letter echoes the demand put forward by the GEC and taken up by MPs, MSPs, AMs and local councillors to properly assess the impact of closures on the disabled, and to run a proper consultation, though it falls short of the union’s demand to guarantee no compulsory redundancies.

Our Left Unity-led GEC continues to use all avenues to organise and fight against the massive attack on our staff, in Jobcentres, Service Centres and especially the 2,000 corporate centre staff who don’t work in or near proposed “corporate centre hubs”. That there are no hubs proposed in Wales, Scotland or huge swathes of England risks these jobs, and guarantees a huge impact to DWP, if the staff are forced out into other roles, despite being specialists.

The GEC has organised a lobby of parliament on 28th March, and on Saturday, marches and demonstrations will occur in multiple parts of the UK to protest the plans, including Glasgow, Sheffield and especially in Barrow, where 80 staff could lose their jobs if DWP don’t withdraw their proposals. LU member and DWP group President, Fran Heathcote, will be speaking at the rally in Barrow to give the clear message that this GEC is fully opposed to compulsory redundancies and that the employer can be pushed back.

There are 11 hotspots around the UK most at risk of job losses and a reps meeting from these sites has now been called to discuss how to build the campaign.

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Our NHS is not for sale – unions must fight back

NEC members march with the NHS demo, Saturday 4th March 2017

DWP Group Executive Committee members Martin Cavanagh and Angela Grant, and PCS activist Nicola Wild march with the PCS contingent on Saturday’s NHS march.

Written report from PCS Left Unity member Angela Grant
Vote for Angela for NEC and DWP Assistant Secretary

Arriving at the “Save our NHS” demo, I was first in awe, and absolute elation, at our ability to mobilise such numbers whilst workers are still suffering from enforced pay restraint and benefit cuts, not to mention being smothered by a huge blanket of lethargy.  The second thing to catch my notice was the how loudly people were chanting, “our NHS is not for sale”.

Fact is, over 50% of our NHS clinical services have already been sold off to private- for profit – investors.  Some of our GP surgeries are partly privatised; a GP referral might now see us being treated in a clinic that, although still badged NHS, is run by profiteers – and that means that all moneys that should be regenerated by our NHS, reinvested into our services, is being syphoned off into the pockets, and the overburdened bank accounts, of the CEO’s of private companies.

How many of the general public know that?  Not nearly enough!  Nothing on the “News”.

But people “know” from mainstream media that “immigrants are bleeding us dry”. Nothing of immigrants being used to build our health service, the 1948 Government asking Caribbean workers to come bolster our system, helping create the great institution we have today. Nothing of the 73,000 women that presently work in our health service, who were trained in their home countries at no cost to us, who have brought their skills here to save lives in our hospitals.  None of that.

We must change the rhetoric!

To blame immigration is to let this and previous governments off the hook for the heinous decimation of our services, for reducing NHS funding to a point where the system is collapsing and the smoke and mirrors spin allows people to believe private companies are the only way out – pitting our NHS against the private sector in a bid for contracts it can ill afford due to the aforementioned cuts to funding.

Our union’s Left Unity-led NEC continues to take the fight for jobs and services to Government’s door, we have called on other public sector leaderships to stand in solidarity, and the TUC to coordinate action to help us win this war. But, rather than move to action, their lack of response has created a vacuum, a black hole which continues to swallow not just our access to free healthcare, but all of our hard won protections such as social security and even our children’s education, as class sizes rise and money available for school books falls sharply. This year we need to re-elect the fighting leadership of our union, and we need other unions to do the same and join the struggle.

So, why do we march? Because, out there with other unions and campaigning groups, PCS can inform, educate and raise public awareness of the issues at hand. And yesterday we did just that.

We took our banners and our flags to London, gave a show of strength with our brothers and sisters across the movement, and we brought to life the words of Nye Bevan:

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

We’re here, and the fight goes on!

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Mark Serwotka speaks: the time for coordinated action is now

PCS is the outstanding advocate amongst the trade unions for a workers’ movement which is prepared to fight back against austerity. At every point, the elected leaders of PCS have stood up to attack the cuts to public services implemented by the Westminster political caste – and their epigones in council halls and devolved national parliaments. Yesterday was no exception. Thousands of PCS activists – with the full support of their union – joined the demonstration called to highlight the terrible state of the NHS under a pro-privatisation, pro-austerity government. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS, one of the few socialist general secretaries in the trade union movement, spoke to the rally in London.

Mark reiterated the view of the PCS National Executive Committee: that all unions must unite and fight back against austerity, especially against the pay caps imposed by the Tory government. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, under pressure to fund social care and NHS services, has already said that there will be no “spending spree”, and has asked all government departments to find an additional 3-6% of “savings”, i.e. budget cuts.

Meanwhile, councils, at the absolute limit of what they can do without the wholesale shut down of services, have begun to plan for significant rises in council tax. This is just a different way of hitting working class people – instead of taking it out of pay packets directly, through wage freezes and cuts, it will come out as tax. The policy of PCS – proposed by the socialist-led NEC and backed by conference – is that councils should use their reserves instead of cutting services or raising council tax, and should launch mass campaigns to force the government to back down on its austerity agenda. A mass programme of coordinated industrial action would be the most powerful weapon, as part of such a campaign, which would have the support of millions of workers.

Coordinated action by Aslef and the RMT against Southern Rail, on staffing, driver-only trains and health and safety show the scope for action across the private sector too. Mass, sustained, coordinated action that started in the public sector, if nurses, civil servants, council workers and teachers struck together, would not stay there. Hundreds of thousands of shop workers, care workers and other unorganised workers would see the opportunity to rise from the conditions of poverty pay in which they are kept by the bosses.

Pressure on the viciously right-wing, anti-democratic leaders of USDAW and other unions would rise. USDAW is the shop workers union and works in “partnership” with employers like Tesco. However, candidates like Robbie Segal, herself a Tesco shop worker, have run for President of the union and got 40% of the vote. A united campaign in the public sector would almost certainly produce amongst shop workers a demand for the bettering of their appalling conditions and pay. The most right-wing union in the TUC could become the most left-wing.

Demonstrations such as yesterday’s magnificent march in London are a lever. They can raise the confidence of workers to take on the bosses. They also put pressure on union leaders whose strategy is to batten down the hatches and hope for a Labour government. This is not enough – and ordinary members who attended the march yesterday will take away the clear message that more can be done. Members of PCS will know and be involved with the battles across the union, in the civil service – on office closures, for fair pay, for better staffing. What is needed, to decisively win on the issues which affect the whole public sector, is a campaign between the key public sector unions.

Mark also spoke about the terrible and cynical use of the status of EU migrants currently in the UK, as a bargaining chip with the European Union, in order for Britain to get a deal that allows it to stay in the single market.

PCS Annual Delegate Conference endorsed the strategy put forward by the National Executive Committee, in the run up to the EU referendum. Rather than go for an “in” or “out” strategy, the NEC ran a “we inform, you decide” campaign. This recognised the huge division amongst PCS members on the subject. In other unions, some right-wing leaderships decided to back the “In” campaign without members getting a say, much like they did over the Scottish referendum. The NEC position agreed by Conference recognised there were valid arguments on both sides.

For those members leaning towards an “In” position, there was huge fear about a Tory bonfire of health and safety and other regulations, which many member saw as protected by EU legislation. For those leaning towards an “Out” position, the role of the EU in smashing the elected left wing government in Greece and the debt-bondage to which the European Central Bank reduced Portugal, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy were reason enough to leave. What the NEC was absolutely determined to do was challenge the anti-immigrant lies being spewed.

A booklet on Brexit has been produced, which tackles the myths in the right-wing press, about how immigrants and refugees are the cause of the problems faced by British workers. At AGMs across the UK, these booklets have been distributed and have proved very popular. Any rep can get copies by getting in touch with their PCS regional office. The cause of the failing NHS, failing social care services, rising costs of public transport, unemployment and so on rest with government cuts. It rests with Vodafone and the other tax dodgers. It rests with the capitalist class, who sit on piles of money worth billions of pounds, refusing to invest it because it will not bring them profit.

In this way, the richest in the UK – and the world – are choosing private profit before the needs of real people.

Unions must unite and fight against that. Under the Democracy Alliance, which is a coalition of the PCS Democrats with PCS Left Unity, PCS has had a leadership which plays its role,which ensures the union is a lay-led union – run by the members and their elected reps, and which puts the full support of the union behind the campaigns which aim to defend the rights of members at work and in their communities. We urge all members to vote for the Democracy Alliance in the 2017 elections – but to go further as well and JOIN PCS Left Unity, the socialist group in PCS.

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Jobstown: Not Guilty – trade unions must oppose criminal injustice

Members of NIPSA General Council, with President Carmel Gates, join together to show solidarity behind the prosecution of those involved with the Jobstown protest against tánaiste Joan Burton.

One of the crucial things which PCS Annual Delegate Conference does each year, as well as taking the decisions which will ensure our National Executive Committee carries out the will of union members, is remind us all that our struggle – that of labour against capital – is a global struggle. Many delegates regard the international and affiliations section of ADC as a chance to nip out for a quick cigarette – but for many, solidarity with other groups involved in the same struggle, even international groups, could not be more important in the age of Trumpism.

As well as motions on the National Campaign, on jobs, on terms and conditions, on welfare, on equality and on the myriad other issues which affect PCS members in their day to day lives, PCS Left Unity will also be proposing motions on affiliation to Tamil Solidarity and the Jobstown: Not Guilty campaigns. This article explains why, and includes text of the model motion which is being proposed and which we hope all branches will pass, in order to ensure the issue is debated.

What happened in Jobstown?

Setting aside the breathless reporting of large sections of Joan Burton being “trapped in her car”, what actually happened on 15 November 2014? A protest happened. A largely spontaneous protest of a working class community that has taken the brunt of austerity, the worst parts of which are personally associated with Joan Burton – rent allowance cuts, cuts to child benefit and cuts to lone parents allowance more recently.

A community that had previously voted heavily for the Labour Party heard that Joan Burton was in the area and hundreds and hundreds gathered to express their anger, their sense of betrayal, and yes, for all the gnashing of teeth of sections of the media about the word, the political hatred of many towards a figure who symbolised both sell-out and austerity.

The car that Joan Burton was in was met with a sit-down protest as she exited from a graduation ceremony. That took place at the exact point that a foodbank operates, which growing numbers are forced to go to. It was a few minutes drive from a couple who were living in their car. There were eggs thrown by young people – who were separate from the main protest, but who have no less reason to be angry, bearing in mind the forced, underpaid work they’ve been obliged to provide through the now-scrapped JobBridge scheme.

 

Intimidation of women in politics?

The majority of the five hundred people who attended the protest were women. Women were no less scathing and vocal about Joan Burton and the betrayal of working class people by the Labour Party. Many of the things said by men using a loudspeaker that night were echoed by dozens of women. Yet the Irish establishment has attempted to portray the anger shown against Joan Burton as somehow an attack on women in politics. Using this to defend someone responsible for taking food out of the mouths of working class women and their families is disgusting.

After the protest dispersed, in a different part of the community, where clashes between local youths and police are far from irregular, the media filmed a clash in which a brick was thrown. Much like during the Miners’ Strike in the U.K., the media attempted to conflate the two incidents in order t discredit the protesters and back up the claims of kidnapping, intimidation and property damage being hurled at those who had demonstrated against the deputy Prime Minister.

Criminalisation of protest

In February of 2015, the state retaliated. Dawn raids across Dublin saw dozens arrested, including a 16 year old, dragged out of bed. This was not just about the protest against Joan Burton. Up and down Ireland, thousands and hundreds of thousand of people had been protesting the water charges, introduced by the Irish government, and likely to hit all poor and middle-income households very hard indeed. Following the February arrests, the Garda began cracking down on those protesting the installation of water meters. Some police at these protests were even armed.

Since that time, revelations about Operation Mizen have shown that the Irish police, like their UK counterparts, were quite happy to use an extensive network of spies against those exercising their legitimate right to protest. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is widely tipped to resign as pressure over the McCabe scandal, a smear campaign by senior police officers against a Garda Sgt who questioned why political figures were not being prosecuted for offences including traffic violations. The depths of corruption in the police is being widely discussed in the press.

The arrests of 23 protesters, including two women, were not in response to criminal damage or “kidnapping” for the two hour period in which the Deputy Prime Minister and her police were held in their cars – but an attempt to criminalise protest and break political opposition to austerity, expressed by the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit organisations. If the state is permitted to get away with it, it will result in anti-austerity elected representatives who attended the protest being barred from office, such as TD Paul Murphy. It will also mean that future pickets – like the mass picket she at Dublin buss – could be criminalised.

Political policing can be defeated however. The Irish ruling class is split on what to do about the incident. Bringing international pressure to bear can force a retreat from the political prosecutions being mounted by the government. The model motion is below.

This Conference notes that on 21 October 2016, a 17 year old was found guilty of false imprisonment in the Children’s Court in Ireland. He was 15 at the time of the “false imprisonment”, which consisted of participating in a protest against water charges and austerity on 15 November 2014, which resulted in Joan Burton’s (the then Deputy Prime Minister) car being delayed for 2.5 hours in Jobstown in Tallaght in Ireland. There was no allegation or charge against him of any violence. He was recognised by the judge as having led a “blameless life”.

However, the judge found him guilty of false imprisonment and listed the following factors which led him to that conclusion: He sat in front of a car and encouraged others to do so; He participated in a slow march; He momentarily stood in Joan Burton’s way and asked to talk to her; He used a megaphone to chat “No way, we won’t pay.”

It is clear that he was protesting, not kidnapping. Although he was given a “conditional discharge”, meaning that he will not face imprisonment if ‘of good behaviour’ for nine months, the important fact is that he was found guilty of false imprisonment because of participating in a protest. The verdict prepares the way for convictions and imprisonment of 18 adult defendants next year, and a dramatic broadening of the definition of false imprisonment to include many forms of protest. Striking workers could find their picket lines classed as “false imprisonment”;, as could any protesters who engage in a slow march or sit-down protest.

The first trial of adults starts on April 24 with a group of seven defendants charged with “false imprisonment”. One of those is Paul Murphy, a TD (MP) for the Anti-Austerity Alliance. If jailed for more than six months, he will be removed as a TD and the people of Dublin South West (which includes Jobstown) will be denied the democratic choice they made.

This Conference:

  • Condemns the conviction of the 17 year old protester of “false imprisonment”;
  • Recognises that “an injury to one is an injury to all” and this conviction is a threat to everybody’s democratic right to protest and calls for all charges to be dropped against Jobstown protesters.

This conference instructs the NEC to send a message of solidarity and a donation of £500 to the #JobstownNotGuilty campaign and to publicise activities supporting the campaign.

 

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PCS Left Unity

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.