One of my briefs as Assistant General Secretary is to oversee the union’s work on climate change. With the COP26 conference coming up, we’re mobilising members to attend demonstrations and take part in actions around the country.
We also want to use COP as impetus to build up a network of “green reps” throughout the union, with at least one in every branch. Longer term, we want to push for employers to recognise these reps.
Climate change can’t be treated as an issue “out there”, it’s something we have to organise around as an industrial issue in our own workplaces. I want to see green reps developing workers’ plans for the decarbonisation of the civil service as a sector. This has to involve things like retrofitting buildings to minimise emissions, looking at where power is sourced from, and so on. The civil service also has a large fleet of vehicles, which should all be electric. If the civil service, which is a significant procurer of energy, were to switch to only using renewable energy, that could have an affect on the energy mix nationally.
Currently, civil service bosses have no plan whatsoever in terms of climate change. We’ve raised these issues in the past but have been stonewalled. So the pressure will need to come from below, in the form of workers’ plans as well as pressure at the departmental and national level.
Another of my major briefs is overseeing the union’s organising of outsourced workers. This is something I have made a major focus of my time in office, and I think we’ve made progress. As well as an overall fight for insourcing, I’m coordinating efforts to pressure the Scottish and Welsh governments particularly, where the administrations at least claim to be pro-trade union, to write in clauses into all their contracts banning “fire and rehire” practices and mandating the payment of full occupational sick pay for all outsourced workers.
A cluster of outsourced contracts in the civil service is up for renewal soon, and I’m involved in developing a claim, via the union’s legal department, that to re-tender them rather than bringing them in house would represent a form of indirect racial discrimination, as it would perpetuate a situation in which a majority BAME and migrant workforce has significantly worse terms and conditions than the majority white directly employed workforce. This is similar to a claim the United Voices of the World union, with whom we’ve worked closely, is bringing on behalf of some of their members.
I am also supporting our reps and full-time colleagues in Mitie in an effort to get company-wide recognition, so we don’t have to attempt to win recognition on a contract-by-contract basis. The overall framework for all of this is our policy that all work should be in house, but it’s also important we take on the contractors as well as putting pressure on the civil service centrally.
In the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), strikes planned by driving examiners against the imposition of additional tests has been suspended. A members’ meeting was held on Thursday 14 October, with 450 attending via Zoom. The offer from the employer at that time was to postpone the planned imposition of an eight-test workday until January. That was very firmly rejected by a majority of about 75%. A new offer was made the following day, showing the pressure the department is under, putting off the change for at least a year. We’ll hold a ballot of all members on the employer’s offer before it is formally accepted, so it’s possible strikes could be reinstated.
• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS, writing here in a personal capacity