Sparking and spreading disputes

Submitted by AWL on 5 June, 2019 - 9:28 Author: John Moloney, Assistant General Secretary-elect, Public and Commercial Services union, in a personal capacity

There are numerous disputes going on across the civil service at the moment. The Universal Credit dispute in Walsall is just one of them. That dispute focuses on workload, and there’s a feeling that other workers in similar situations across the union might take similar action. That opens up the potential for a wider dispute within the Department for Work and Pensions.

There are also disputes against the threatened closure of offices, such as the Ealing tax office, where workers have recently taken action. In HMRC and DWP the Government plans the mass closures of offices therefore it is possible that other disputes will be sparked. There are also hugely significant disputes of outsourced workers currently taking place, in the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The PCS branches at BEIS and FCO has done exemplary work to organise outsourced workers. At BEIS, the contractor underpaid their workers recently, plunging many into real financial hardship. The situation the workers face is so acute that the branch recently organised a food bank in the workplace. That dispute has recently extended to involve another group of outsourced workers at BEIS, who have returned a majority for industrial action. Therefore PCS now has the possibility of more cleaners, security guards etc. taking action in the period ahead. We need to spread this kind of organising throughout the union.

Wherever work has been outsourced and where PCS organises we need to get cleaning, catering, security workers, maintenance staff etc into the union. Our immediate goal is to win improvements in pay and conditions for these workers but it also vitally important that we fight on to win recognition for PCS in these contracts. Of course the end goal must be to have all these workers in-sourced so that they have the same terms and conditions as their in-house colleagues.

Our national conference voted for a further ballot over national pay. That ballot may also include redundancy pay and cover pensions. The July meeting of our National Executive Committee will decide on the voting timetable. We need to use the campaign around the ballot as an organising and recruitment drive. We shouldn’t just be aiming for 50% plus one, but for a massive majority that engages workers in the union and gets them active.

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