Following a meeting with the United Voices of the World union (UVW), we’ll be issuing a letter to the outsourced contractor which employs cleaners in the Royal Parks. Currently workers are assigned to specific parks, but the contractor wants to move to a mobile workforce model.
UVW estimates that this could lead to job cuts of up to 25%. In particular, all existing women workers can’t drive, so they’d be particularly at risk as workers would now be expected to drive between parks as part of the mobile workforce model.
Our letter will make a series of demands. The key one is that they commit to not making any job cuts, but there’ll be other demands, including around pay. We’ll give the employer a deadline of 2 June. If the demands are not met, we’ll be balloting outsourced cleaners in Royal Parks — who are dual members of PCS and UVW — for strikes.
In the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Swansea, we’re planning a further strike in the contact centre, from 2-5 June. There had been a plan for a wider strike, involving all workers on site and those working at home, but the branch executive committee voted to revise that after concessions were made over the numbers of workers on site. The decision to move to selective action did prompt some debate within branch, so a members’ meeting was held to discuss the strategy. Negotiations are taking place, in which the most senior manager in the department, the private secretary, is now involved. We believe their involvement signals either that we’re close to a settlement, or that the bosses are digging in. If it’s the latter, we’re prepared to see this dispute through and be in it for the long haul.
In the Department for Work and Pensions, our consultative ballots on whether to take action over workplace safety have been extended. The argument for this is that there’s likely to be a renewed wave of anger amongst the workforce due to increased pressure on job coaches to conduct more in-person interviews. Once those ballots are returned, there’ll be a discussion about where to go next — whether to a single ballot of the entire workforce, or a series of ballots disaggregated on a local basis.
Across the civil service, a particular issue I have been pushing for is service-wide talks with the employer around environmental sustainability. This isn’t an abstract question, it’s a class issue. Working-class people will bear the brunt of sharpening climate crisis; but workers also have the means to avert it by forcing employers to take action to decarbonise. The civil service has now agreed to talks on the issue and I want to drive that forward.
In those talks, we won’t just be asking for more recycling facilities or low-energy lightbulbs; we’ll make demands for major structural changes, such as an end to outsourcing policies, which, as well as exploiting workers, increase waste and make transparent auditing around the emission levels in supply chains harder.
• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union (personal capacity)