David Semple, Secretary, PCS Wigan Area (personal capacity)
Despite a relatively slow start, filled with speeches from the rightward-drifting leadership of the PCS union in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), a new combative spirit is beginning to emerge at DWP group conference, which began on 23 May in Brighton.
The last year has seen the total collapse of any serious attempt to ensure that DWP is Covid-safe, the erosion of members’ pay by at least 10%, and the decision to close 40+ offices and get rid of 4,000 jobs. The union’s leadership has simply not proven up to the task of doing anything except indulge in angry rhetoric.
Motion A18, put forward by Broad Left Network (BLN) supporters and Socialist Party members, pushed for a serious campaign on pay, staffing and working conditions.
The leadership opposed it, and encouraged their supporters to launch desperate personal attacks on those reps who moved and supported the motion. This failed.
Reps held their nerve, and made it clear that the time has come to correct six years of industrial silence in DWP, and to fight for thousands of additional staff, for an end to Saturday working and late nights, and for a minimum 10% pay rise.
They voted by 19,387 to 17,058 for the motion BLN supporters put forward.
Our union has lost thousands of reps and tens of thousands of members, demonstrated by the much reduced size of the DWP group conference, with a hundred and sometimes fewer delegates voting.
The complacency of the union’s leadership must be defeated, and they must be ousted by a serious socialist alternative. It is therefore good progress that six BLN supporters have been elected to the group executive in the recent elections.
PCS BEIS group adopts fighting programme
Socialist Party members in BEIS
Reps in the Business, Energy, Industry and Science (BEIS) group of PCS union came together on Monday 23 May to discuss their response to the onslaught of attacks across all constituent parts.
Group president Marion Lloyd opened the conference with a fighting speech calling on delegates to “get mad and get even”. She congratulated all reps for working tirelessly all year despite the constant stream of attacks, and the fact that they and their families weren’t immune to the cost of the pandemic.
Their hard work was a testament to the commitment of reps and was reaping success – notably the fact that union membership across the group had jumped by almost 100 in the 24 hours following the closure and cuts announcements in the Insolvency Service.
Delegates supported, almost without exception, the fighting programme set out in the conference agenda.
This included the fight on office closures in the Insolvency Service, the cuts to come across the group, potential privatisation in the shared service centres, and supporting members in Acas confronted with mass organisational change.
The programme also included how we are going to develop the work with our privatised members, and build on the campaigning spirit of our London South branch, which led the recent disputes in ISS and Aramark. This fighting spirit has been reflected in the group election results, where a socialist leadership on a fighting campaigning programme has been returned and the work will start almost immediately to drive through the campaigns agreed upon.
HMRC group in PCS needs fighting programme
JP Rosser, PCS member (personal capacity)
This is the first physical Revenue and Customs (HMRC) group conference in three years and it’s a different looking group.
Covid didn’t stop the office closure programme, so a number of PCS branches no longer exist. Many branches have also struggled to identify a full delegation. So HMRC, the second biggest group in the union, is represented by just 75 delegates.
It’s a conference with a friendly tone but a lack of confidence and fire.
There are motions on many important issues, especially around pay and contract reform. Yet the standard instruction is to ask the group executive to negotiate. It’s a concerning trend and must change.
It’s clear only the BLN will bring forward a programme to rediscover the campaigning and fighting group that HMRC can be.