Like all workers, civil servants are now facing at least five years of an extremely reactionary government. Workers’ rights and trade unionism will come under renewed assault, and as government workers we expect PCS will be in the frontline of that.
We even had members on strike on election day, with our members at Ealing tax office striking for half a day to demand the office remains open. They also struck on 5 December, and have now struck five times in total. Further strikes are planned in January if necessary.
The union will be launching a new organising and recruitment drive in 2020. We know many civil service workers are worried about what a Johnson government means for them, and we to persuade them they can fight back via the union rather than being cowed by those fears. That drive will also take up concerns of specific groups of workers within the civil service, such as EU and non-EU migrants, and hopefully persuade them that the union can be an instrument for defending migrants’ rights. The PCS has a clear policy in favour of free movement, and we’ll be fighting for that against any attempt to restrict migrants’ rights, whatever happens with Brexit.
We also expect to be in dispute with the government over civil service pay in 2020, and will be building towards a national industrial action ballot on that issue. One of the features of the past few years is that, while the left in the Labour Party revived via “Corbynism”, we haven’t seen any equivalent revival in industrial struggle. In fact strikes have remained at historically low levels.
That’s one of the contributing factors behind Labour’s defeat. Unions need to take responsibility for turning that situation around. We are likely to be the first national union to go into dispute directly with the government, so PCS has a very important role to play in that.
The recruitment and organising drive we plan won’t be about getting people into the union for the sake of it, but to organise and prepare workers to fight back against a hostile, anti-union employer.
• John Moloney is Assistant General Secretary of PCS, writing in a personal capacity.