Working with the “micro-unions”

Submitted by Zac Muddle on 20 November, 2019 - 12:28 Author: John Moloney
Demonstration with banner reading "United Voices of the World"

PCS has been making efforts to develop links with United Voices of the World (UVW) and the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), small unions not affiliated to the TUC which organise mainly precarious and migrant workers.

Unlike some other TUC unions, we are not hostile to UVW and IWGB. We see them as an inspiration, and allies, rather a threat. They’ve done something the “mainstream” labour movement should have done, but hasn’t: organise precarious and outsourced workers and empower them to take direct action.

We fully support their disputes, and have been promoting them to PCS members. We encourage our branches to fundraise for their strike funds and attend their picket lines.

We’re in specific discussions with the UVW about their members in Ministry of Justice and in Royal Parks. Those are civil service workplaces where PCS also organises where UVW has organised outsourced workers and called strikes recently.

Our Royal Parks branch is already fundraising for the UVW strike fund. We’re looking at what we can do to best support and empower these workers, whether that might be taking them into PCS members, as we have far greater resources to support sustained strike action than UVW does, or a dual-card arrangement, or something else.

Our Royal Parks branch has already committed to creating seats on their branch committee for the UVW’s elected stewards.

There’s a particular industrial logic to this collaboration, as OCS, the contractor with whom UVW is in dispute at the Ministry of Justice, has just been given another contract on the civil service estate, providing security guards at courts. Whatever formal arrangement we arrive at with UVW, we will continue to work with them and their members and look to coordinate strikes.

The most recent strikes of PCS members at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were very solid. We held a meeting on the picket line which voted unanimously for a substantial escalation of the action in the new year if there’s no movement from Interserve, the outsourced contractor, or the F&CO itself, over the next month.

Our cleaner members in the HMRC in Merseyside are also planning further strikes, on 25-27 November and 2-4 December, demanding a living wage and other improvements to terms and conditions.

With the general election approaching, the union is campaigning for its position of a Labour vote in England and Wales.

We’ve sent literature arguing for this position to our members, and are targeting around 40 seats in particular where we’re seeking to mobilise members to campaign and canvas.

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