A union policy on climate (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by AWL on 2 November, 2021 - 9:35 Author: John Moloney
PCS BEIS members

I spoke at an online members’ meeting about the union’s climate change activity on Tuesday 26 October. Although much of the discussion understandably focused on the upcoming COP26 conference, I was keen to emphasise that the real fight for us is after COP, both industrially, in terms of organising around decarbonisation demands in civil service workplaces, and politically, in terms of pressuring the government to take radical action.

The government has no serious plan, either as an employer, for the decarbonisation of government workplaces, or at societal level for meeting its targets for cutting emissions. It will rely on market mechanisms. There is also a clear split in the ruling class, reflected in the Tory party, between those who accept the need for action, and those who oppose the taxation and spending that will entail and want to look at cheaper mitigations instead.

Workers need to organise independently to demand the radical action we need. Trade unions need to place themselves at the head of a social movement. I want to approach like-minded unions to form a bloc on this, including within the TUC, to argue for a radical, independent working-class climate politics.

Our outsourced members in the Royal Parks conclude a month-long strike at the end of October. That strike has forced major concessions from the employer, but we’re pushing for more. For example, they’ve conceded an increase in sick pay entitlement from six days to three months for those with 36 months service and lesser amounts for lesser service, but they want only certain staff to have the enhanced sick pay. We are taking this differential offer as an attempt to split the work force. In a meeting on Friday 28 October members made it clear that all workers must have equal entitlement to sick pay. So, while we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made, we’re absolutely prepared for further action, and will look to strike during the Winter Wonderland festival in Hyde Park this winter if necessary.

The union has been actively fund raising around the dispute. As part of this there’s a benefit gig to raise money for the strike fund on 3 November at the Bread and Roses pub in Clapham.

Our re-ballot of members at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) complex in Swansea is continuing. Management will be watching the outcome keenly; if we beat the thresholds, I think they’re likely to make concessions.

• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS, writing here in a personal capacity

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