PCS

DVLA scandal hits the press

The lack of robust Covid safety measures at DVLA Swansea, mentioned before in these columns, has now been picked up by the national press. The Department for Transport has been written to twice by the Labour government of Wales, which has demanded that the numbers of workers in the physical workplace be drastically reduced. PCS has repeatedly demanded that all workers are sent home — even those whose jobs don’t allow home working. It’s clearly not safe for people to be in the workplace at the moment, so people should be at home on full pay. Part of the background is a catastrophic strategic...

Clampdown forces Hong Kong union to disband

On 15 January 2021, the Hong Kong Civil Service Bureau (CSB), undoubtedly acting under the instruction of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her Chinese Communist Party masters, issued a circular to all government departments All 180,000 workers in these departments will be required to take an oath of loyalty to the government and its “basic law”. If they take that oath and are later seen to be acting “disloyally”, they can face immediate disciplinary action. Monitoring of their activities might also feed into their prosecution under the National Security Law. Many civil service workers, including...

Progress in DWP (John Moloney's column)

Our members continue to fight for safer working, especially in departments where workers continue to be in the physical workplace. We’re making some progress in the Department for Work and Pensions, where management have proposed an arrangement that would see 80% of workers working from home, with 20% coming into physical workplaces, hopefully on a rotating basis. That would be a stark reversal of management’s position in a department where up to 60% of workers have been working in physical workplaces. Bosses in DWP though are currently dragging their feet over implementing increased...

To beat the pandemic, beat poverty: good sick pay for all!

There is growing noise in the labour movement and more widely around the issue of sick pay. We urgently need a bigger campaign on this issue. Despite right-wing agitation about people flouting lockdown regulations, the evidence suggests something like 90% general compliance (British Medical Journal). But much lower numbers of those infected or in contact with the infected are self-isolating fully: more like 20%. Unlike hand-washing and social distancing, self-isolation often requires material resources and support, particularly sufficient space and an income. Data from the first lockdown...

Withdraw "conditionality"! (John Moloney's column)

The vast majority of directly-employed civil servants continue to work from home, but despite the worsening situation with the pandemic, bosses in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) still want to keep job centres open for face-to-face meetings with benefit claimants. We support limited opening for vulnerable claimants who need additional support, but as a general rule we want contact to be remote. Forcing claimants into job centres puts both the claimants themselves and DWP workers at risk. We’re also fighting for the withdrawal of “conditionality”, under which claimants are sanctioned...

Reopening call centre as infections rise?

The vast bulk of PCS members continue to work from home. This throws into sharp relief the struggle of those of our members who have to attend the workplace. The call centre in Swansea has reopened on 4 January. Swansea is a Covid hotspot, in a country with some of the highest Covid rates in the world; the call centre in particular has been badly affected. Our view is that it’s not safe for that workplace to be open and so we are in discussions with the branch and Groups as to what should be done. Given the current increase in infections, driving tests have been suspended in many areas. As a...

Action on pay freeze (John Moloney's column)

The TUC General Council is due to meet shortly; one of the items under discussion will be possible coordinated action against a new public sector pay freeze. The case for coordinated action is obvious. It’s something PCS will push for as hard as we can through the TUC, and via our bilateral relations with other public sector unions. But we can’t move at the pace of the slowest. We’re still arguing for an active, fighting response within PCS, and that’s not contingent on whether we can get coordinated action with other unions. Our own National Executive Committee will meet on 10 December, and...

Frozen for years? (John Moloney's column)

We’re now hearing rumours that the public sector pay freeze may be for several years, across the whole sector. If that’s true, that reinforces the need for unions to work together and build coordinated action as soon as possible, aimed at breaking the freeze before it becomes a “fact-on-the-ground” over a long period. The wider the coordination, the more impactful the action will be. Having said this, aiming for coordination can’t be allowed to hold back those unions, or groups of workers within unions, from taking action when they’re ready. If PCS needs to act alone, or in coordination with a...

Preparing to fight the pay freeze (John Moloney's column)

Our National Executive Committee (NEC) meets on 10 December, and will decide our strategy. I am sure industrial action will be considered. If it is, no doubt the union will approach other public sector unions and trying to build towards coordinated action, but we of course have to be prepared to go on our own if necessary. If the NEC say yes, then we could build towards action in the new year. There’s a specific process inside the civil service called the “pay remit”, where the Treasury issues guidance about how much money is available. That usually takes place in April, so that could be the...

Worries on testing (John Moloney's column)

The Group Executive Committee for our members in the Department of Transport are preparing plans for a possible ballot of driving instructors. Instructors have been told they’re expected to resume driving tests after lockdown, but we don’t think that’ll be safe. Similar discussions about a possible ballot are taking place amongst our members working in courts. The government wants to roll out mass testing to workers across a number of government departments, including DWP and Home Office. We support an expansion of testing, but there’s a lot that needs firming up. The tests they plan to use...

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