In leaked documents from HMRC (the tax and customs part of the civil service) we see in the open how bosses try to “handle” unions.
In the document a senior manager writes:“...If we are unable to persuade the new GEC (the union body that runs the PCS union in HMRC) and full time officials to change their stance this suggests that the usual rules for engagement with a trade union will not work.”
The paper recommends “aiming to marginalise PCS by maintaining dialogue only to meet statutory minimum requirements.”
The paper outlines “advantages: creates pressure on PCS to re-engage with the employer as this is the only means by which they can be fully involved as the business reshapes ... enables the change agenda to be progressed without the need for time-consuming discussion ... sends a clear signal to union members that their union is no best positioned to serve their needs.”
The paper ends ominously with “the position regarding further proactive measures targeted at key union activists is regularly reviewed in light of achievements flowing from the recommendations above”.
Beyond calling for an ACAS meeting between the union and HMRC, no concrete action is being proposed. The union has not said explicitly it will defend activists, despite the threats made above. Nor said it will take industrial action.
This relatively muted response could be because the union fears that HMRC will end check-off [paying union dues through wage packets] if the union protests too much. HMRC and DWP are key to the union, with the bulk of the members working in these two departments. If check-off was ended then the union would be in a very serious situation. No doubt finances are a factor in the union’s thinking.
The union should be calling upon Labour, and indeed the Lib Dems, to condemn any moves to “marginalise PCS”.
It should be demanding that a future Labour government will positively make the case for unions in the civil service, and elsewhere, and positively engage with unions.