England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

PCS pay ballot: Vote Yes and vote to transform our union in NEC elections

By Socialist Alternative members in PCS

We are pleased the leadership of PCS has decided to call a new ballot on the key question of pay after their premature decision last year to call off action and accept 4.5% and a £1500 pro rata payment. At a time when inflation was sky-high, this was a real-terms pay cut, and our leadership should never have accepted it. 

As we wrote in 2023:

For members of staff hit hardest by the cost of living crisis, part-time staff and staff on Universal Credit, they will feel even less benefit, as it will likely lead to UC deductions for many. There are some members who, as a result of deductions to the child care element of UC, will actually end up worse off than they would have been without the payment. Scandalously, it appears the union leadership did not even question these issues when they met with the cabinet secretary prior to the announcement. In a letter dated 4 June, Jeremy Quinn stated “I note that you raised no objection on these grounds when we met.”

Strong campaign needed for a Yes vote

Our members will be campaigning in our branches and in local areas for a huge turnout and a Yes vote for action.

However, it would be a mistake to think we don’t have an uphill battle to fight. Activists report members simply do not know about the ballot. Sufficient time has not been given for information to filter down to the membership, and there are issues of basic material not being provided to allow leafleting of workplaces.

The leadership has given very little notice of this ballot, and simply expecting PCS activists to ramp up to a statutory ballot after a substantial period of demobilisation will not be that easy. Union members are not simply a tap which the leadership can turn on and off at will when they feel it is appropriate to take action.

The union leadership neglected its duty by winding down the national campaign last year, and they are further neglecting it by expecting members to go from 0 to 60 mph with no preparation.

Build the turnout

Our members will fight for as big a turnout as possible, because we recognise pay is crucial to our low paid members. But members are also saying they are being asked to do more with fewer staff, so it is clear our demands need to go wider. It is disappointing to see the current leadership has not included demands for the recruitment of more staff in the national campaign. Suggested cuts to tens and thousands of civil service jobs, with cuts to departmental funding further adds to the risk to jobs we need to stand against.

But we also need a wider proactive campaign for jobs, not just against cuts. PCS members recognise that we need more staff in all our departments, and yet demands over staffing appear to be put to one side. Staffing campaigns cannot simply be lobbying campaigns like we have seen in the DWP group, but need to be fought for with real and sustained industrial action. 

Demands

We would also call for the campaign to include demands about hybrid working. The shortening of the working week, the need for more staff, and defence of hybrid working are intrinsically linked. The victories for a work-life balance for our members would be significant if we were to win on these demands.

Many PCS members, especially within the Ministry of Justice, have worked in their workplace consistently over the past 4 years to provide operational face to face services. But these members understand staff who don’t need to come into the workplace shouldn’t have to, and the PCS leadership should be raising demands for what we need, not shying away.

It is right to continue to put the question of national pay bargaining front and centre. The fact that at Administrative Officer grade there can be a £3000 gap between salaries of staff in different departments doing the same kind of work is completely unacceptable. But the question of parity across departments, also raises the need for parity within departments.

Terms and conditions

There exists in most departments a two tier workforce, on different terms and conditions. These changes have unfortunately been supported by PCS in the past, like with the Employee Deal in the DWP. This also needs urgent correction. Just as staff in different departments shouldn’t be on different pay, terms and conditions, staff sitting at the same bank of desks shouldn’t!

Unfortunately, as the leadership supported these deals and this kind of concession bargaining, they don’t appear willing to demand the reversal of these changes.

It’s noteworthy that the current ballot is taking place as PCS’s annual elections for the National Executive Committee are about to start. We believe the reason this ballot has been called so hastily is because the current leadership wants to play at being radical. They can talk the talk, but use this to distract from the fact they didn’t walk the walk when they had the opportunity last year. We are confident PCS members won’t be fooled by this.

Vote for change in our union!

Socialist Alternative member Liat Norris is standing for the National Executive Committee as part of the left opposition slate alongside other left groupings and non affiliated independents. Liat is the Secretary of PCS Proud, the LGBT+ members group, and has fought regularly within the union to ensure we stand side by side with oppressed workers against attacks from the so-called ‘culture wars’. 

Socialist Alternative members are not part of any faction in the union, but support any attempt to bring the fighting left within our union together and we see this as a key step towards that. Liat’s election statement is below.

We will be fighting for a Yes vote in the statutory ballot, but we need a real fighting leadership to take this yes vote forward and win on our demands.

Vote yes, and vote for the following in the NEC elections

President – Lloyd

Vice-Presidents – Carlsen, Laidlaw, ​​Semple, Wesley

NEC – Bishell, Brittle, Carlsen, Chown, Clarke, Criddle, Cuckson, Davidson, Day, Dennis, Hamer, Heemskerk, Jones, Laidlaw, Lawton, Lloyd, Marks, Menezes–Jackson, Norris, Ritchie, Rosser, Semple, Smith, Spencer, Tweedale, Virtue, Williams, Worswick, Wright, Young

 

Vote for Liat Norris and other left candidates in the NEC elections

We carry below the election statement of Liat that will be distributed to all PCS members

PCS needs a shake up. For too long the current leadership represented by the “Democracy Alliance” has had overwhelming control of our union. And what has been the result?

Wasted strike mandates, refusal to reballot, real-term pay cuts painted as victories, one-off payments that left some members on Universal Credit worse off! PCS members deserve so much more than this, which is why I am standing for the NEC as a voice for change.

After 15 years of below inflation pay rises we need real pay restoration. It is unacceptable that each April PCS members need pay uplifts because their pay would otherwise fall below minimum wage. We need a leadership that will fight for this, and not merely accept the first offer brought to the table.

Our workplaces are deliberately understaffed, creating stress and unrealistic pressures. We need a real national campaign for more jobs, not just against further cuts. This cannot just be imposed from above, and we cannot silo staffing campaigns to groups.

As Secretary of PCS Proud I’ve seen firsthand the current leadership’s total inability to properly consult with members. I understand Scottish members’ anger at changes to their structures imposed on them. There should be no decisions made about union structures without genuine democratic consultation and agreement. We’d reject top-down backdoor deals in our workplaces, we should reject it in our union.

Capitalism is a system in crisis, only offering declining standards of living, instability and war. Vitriol is spilled against migrants and LGBT+ people, particularly trans people, using well-worn divide and rule tactics. These attacks fundamentally harm all workers, but unfortunately, some of this hostile rhetoric has found its way into our movement. PCS has long-standing policy supporting trans rights, but past rhetoric of leading elected officials has not always reflected this. These false divisions let the real enemies off the hook. Our movement gains nothing by echoing this. We need to fight it.

I’m a member of Socialist Alternative. I’m not a member of any union faction: I will work with anyone willing to build strong, principled rank and file networks and a culture of transparency and accountability.

Share
Facebook
Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *