PCS

To beat the pandemic, beat poverty: good sick pay for all!

There is growing noise in the labour movement and more widely around the issue of sick pay. We urgently need a bigger campaign on this issue. Despite right-wing agitation about people flouting lockdown regulations, the evidence suggests something like 90% general compliance (British Medical Journal). But much lower numbers of those infected or in contact with the infected are self-isolating fully: more like 20%. Unlike hand-washing and social distancing, self-isolation often requires material resources and support, particularly sufficient space and an income. Data from the first lockdown...

Withdraw "conditionality"! (John Moloney's column)

The vast majority of directly-employed civil servants continue to work from home, but despite the worsening situation with the pandemic, bosses in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) still want to keep job centres open for face-to-face meetings with benefit claimants. We support limited opening for vulnerable claimants who need additional support, but as a general rule we want contact to be remote. Forcing claimants into job centres puts both the claimants themselves and DWP workers at risk. We’re also fighting for the withdrawal of “conditionality”, under which claimants are sanctioned...

Reopening call centre as infections rise?

The vast bulk of PCS members continue to work from home. This throws into sharp relief the struggle of those of our members who have to attend the workplace. The call centre in Swansea has reopened on 4 January. Swansea is a Covid hotspot, in a country with some of the highest Covid rates in the world; the call centre in particular has been badly affected. Our view is that it’s not safe for that workplace to be open and so we are in discussions with the branch and Groups as to what should be done. Given the current increase in infections, driving tests have been suspended in many areas. As a...

Action on pay freeze (John Moloney's column)

The TUC General Council is due to meet shortly; one of the items under discussion will be possible coordinated action against a new public sector pay freeze. The case for coordinated action is obvious. It’s something PCS will push for as hard as we can through the TUC, and via our bilateral relations with other public sector unions. But we can’t move at the pace of the slowest. We’re still arguing for an active, fighting response within PCS, and that’s not contingent on whether we can get coordinated action with other unions. Our own National Executive Committee will meet on 10 December, and...

Frozen for years? (John Moloney's column)

We’re now hearing rumours that the public sector pay freeze may be for several years, across the whole sector. If that’s true, that reinforces the need for unions to work together and build coordinated action as soon as possible, aimed at breaking the freeze before it becomes a “fact-on-the-ground” over a long period. The wider the coordination, the more impactful the action will be. Having said this, aiming for coordination can’t be allowed to hold back those unions, or groups of workers within unions, from taking action when they’re ready. If PCS needs to act alone, or in coordination with a...

Preparing to fight the pay freeze (John Moloney's column)

Our National Executive Committee (NEC) meets on 10 December, and will decide our strategy. I am sure industrial action will be considered. If it is, no doubt the union will approach other public sector unions and trying to build towards coordinated action, but we of course have to be prepared to go on our own if necessary. If the NEC say yes, then we could build towards action in the new year. There’s a specific process inside the civil service called the “pay remit”, where the Treasury issues guidance about how much money is available. That usually takes place in April, so that could be the...

Worries on testing (John Moloney's column)

The Group Executive Committee for our members in the Department of Transport are preparing plans for a possible ballot of driving instructors. Instructors have been told they’re expected to resume driving tests after lockdown, but we don’t think that’ll be safe. Similar discussions about a possible ballot are taking place amongst our members working in courts. The government wants to roll out mass testing to workers across a number of government departments, including DWP and Home Office. We support an expansion of testing, but there’s a lot that needs firming up. The tests they plan to use...

Workplace safety and lockdown (John Moloney's column)

Our Group Executive Committee in the Department for Work and Pensions is continuing to discuss our dispute with the DWP over workplace safety. That dispute and the threat of industrial action has wrung concessions from the bosses, including a commitment that individual Job Centre workers will have the final say over where a claimant is seen face to face. It now seems that the employer will make concessions over the other central issue in the dispute, the extension of Job Centre opening hours. Our reps and activists will discuss the proposals; the GEC will decide a way forward. In the...

Sick pay for outsourced workers (John Moloney's column)

PCS's “Dying for Sick Pay” campaign, demanding full sickness and isolation pay for all workers, is continuing. We’ve been applying political pressure, and have written to the government demanding that the right of all workers, regardless of contractual status, to full sick pay is written into agreements across the civil service on a permanent basis. MPs who work with the union have also raised this issue in Parliament. Crucially we’re also contacting every outsourced worker member to discuss the campaign with them and encourage them to get active in the union. Our reps working in Department...

John Moloney's column: Strike ballot in DWP

Around 800 workers in Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) job centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Merseyside, Sunderland, and Washington will be balloted for action over health and safety concerns. We’re also empowering members to take immediate action to refuse unsafe work using Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act, issuing members with pro forma letters they can use with their bosses. The ballot will likely begin on or around Tuesday 27 October, which will set up the possibility of industrial action in early November. Union pressure and the threat of a national ballot already secured...

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