PCS

Section 44 and the civil service

Civil service employers have been reticent to go for a return-to-work drive in the short to medium term. The Cabinet Office informed the union that they would continue to support homeworking. That approach isn’t completely uniform, and the Cabinet Office hasn’t exerted any particular pressure to rein in departmental employers who are taking a different approach, but there has been no central, concerted, back-to-work lurch. The major exception to this is the outsourced contractors, who have behaved appallingly and are forcing workers to continue working despite the buildings they clean or...

It's your right to refuse unsafe work

As workers are encouraged to return to the workplace, as part of the government’s botched and reckless easing of lockdown measures, an urgent discussion is taking place across workplaces and through unions about resisting a lurch back to work in unsafe conditions. School workers’ unions are organising to resist a planned reopening from 1 June of schools (beyond the vulnerable and key workers’ children for whom they have remained open throughout. Joe Anderson, the Labour mayor of Liverpool, and some other Labour councils have said they support the NEU’s “five tests” which the union says must be...

Section 44 in the civil service

The National Executive Committee of the Public and Commercial Services union met on 13 May to discuss the union’s position on a potential back-to-work drive. This is an abridged and slighted edited version of a report published by an NEC member and supporter of the Independent Left network. The full version will be published on the Independent Left website . Our Independent Left proposals, built around how to respond in the worst-case scenario of a mass return to work, were as follows. It was broadly agreed that 1, 2, 4 and 5 were covered by the union’s actions and/or overtaken by events. 3,...

PCS to meet with Cabinet Office over Covid-19 issues

The union has commenced discussions with the Cabinet Office on a return-to-work protocol for the entire civil service, but we’re having to fight the managements of individual departments who want to pre-empt that by unilaterally bringing in their own return-to-work plans, prior to a national agreement being in place, or simply pressuring people back to work. The first formal meeting with Cabinet Office will take place this week. Our National Executive Committee will meet to review our position; currently our policy is that home working should continue for all workers who can work from home,...

Getting safe workplaces

Our union (PCS) National Executive Committee will meet this week to discuss a formal position on criteria for any possible return to work. The majority of civil servants can work from home, so there’s no reason why any return to the workplace shouldn’t be voluntary. Other ideas being discussed include a demand that distancing measures be maintained in the workplace, facilitated by mechanisms such as staggered start times, to regulate the amount of people who are in the workplace at any given time. We also want a clear agreement around a protocol for what will happen when there’s a confirmed...

Time to be combative

A left member of the PCS civil service union’s national executive talked with Sacha Ismail. There’s going to be a vast amount of social turmoil created by this. The economic and social fallout is going to be enormous. The benefits system needs thoroughly transforming so it actually supports people. In the short term that might involve some form of a Basic Income to get money to people fast, but there are much wider issues of how the system works and treats people. Under a bit of pressure but fundamentally because they were worried about their system collapsing, the government has resorted to a...

Make workplaces safe first! (John Moloney's column)

We’re still waiting for a response from the civil service to our proposals for what employers should do in cases of some who might be affected by the virus. We made various demands about the isolation and closure of workspaces; we were promised a response this week, but that’s now been delayed. For the past fortnight we’ve been holding off bosses’ plans to increase staffing levels in the workplace itself in the Passport Office. There’s currently a 17.5% staffing level in the workplace, and bosses want to ramp that up to 25%. They want to clear a backlog of applications, but on the whole that’s...

Memories of Tony Reay

Tony Reay, who died on 23 April, was a campaigner, trade unionist and socialist. For most of his adult life he worked closely with Workers’ Liberty comrades in the civil service trade unions, first the CPSA and then the PCS. He was based in Lewisham for the past 30 years and was hugely respected in the Lewisham labour movement. I first met Tony 27 years ago, just after I moved to London. The then AWL industrial organiser discovered I was now living across from the road from Tony, and sent me to visit Tony with the instruction to recruit him. I still don’t know if that was the organiser’s sense...

After Trinity Bridge House

We’re in negotiations with the civil service to secure a national agreement on what should happen if there’s a confirmed case of Covid-19 in a workplace. Obviously that individual worker needs to immediately go home, with full pay, and our demand is that their immediate team is also sent home on full pay. We’re further demanding that their immediate work space, if it can be isolated, be shut down and deep cleaned, and if it can’t, that the entire building be closed. The national negotiations were impelled by struggles our members faced at workplace level, for example at Trinity Bridge House, a...

Jobcentres in the pandemic

The coronavirus crisis has radically changed the job roles and working environment in Jobcentres. Department for Work and Pensions policy on self-isolation for permanent staff is relatively good, sending anyone with a relevant underlying health condition home for 12 weeks on full pay, although there are arguments with management about staff who live with vulnerable people still being asked to come in. G4S staff are on full pay, despite significantly reduced hours because almost no security is needed now jobcentres have been closed to the public, and would be paid if they needed to self-isolate...

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