Preparing a counter-offensive

Submitted by AWL on 8 January, 2020 - 9:14 Author: John Moloney

The key thing the union must consider now, in light of the general election, is how we prepare against a likely onslaught against both unions in general, and our members specifically as government workers.

Dominic Cummings has talked about a “radical reshaping” of the civil service. Whatever the precise detail of that reshaping will be, it’s inevitable that it will impact on our members.

It’s common under new governments that some departments will merge, and new ones may form; that’s normal practice, but a restructure in the hands of a government like this, and led by someone like Cummings, will not be good for workers.

We need to meet any employers’ offensive with a counter-offensive. Our National Executive Committee [NEC] meets next week, and will be discussing national strategy over a number of issues, including pay, our redundancy scheme, and pensions.

On pay, we have policy for a renewed dispute on this in 2020, so we’ll be discussing the best way to build towards that. On the redundancy scheme, the last government attempted to reform this but eventually backed off. If the new government makes a new attempt, that could also be a trigger for a dispute.

There may also be a new fight on pensions. Both the employer and the union is looking at the implications of the Fire Brigades Union’s legal victory, in which a court ruled that changes to the fire service pension scheme were discriminatory. Our scheme is currently “overfunded”, with more going in than is being taken out, which means the employers should reduce our employee contributions.

They had previously agreed to do so by 2%, effectively a 2% pay increase, but are now saying they may need the surplus funds to pay compensation based on the FBU victory. We are demanding they implement the reduction by 1 April. If they don’t that may also trigger a dispute.

Various campaigns and disputes involving outsourced workers are also continuing. In Merseyside, cleaners in HMRC offices in Liverpool and Bootle have been striking for living wages, and we’re looking to spread that dispute to other areas where the outsourced contractor ISS has contracts.

Over all these issues, our NEC needs to discuss how to move forward.

• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of PCS, writing in a personal capacity.

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