After one-week strikes in Glasgow and London, PCS members in the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Cardiff office are on strike 29 May — 2 June. 5-9 June, coinciding with the general election, PCS members will be on strike in the EHRC’s Manchester office.
The successive one-week strikes are part of an ongoing campaign against redundancies imposed by the EHRC. The campaign, involving a succession of targeted strikes, has been underway since October of last year. Employees with disabilities, older and ethnic-minority employees, and trade union activists are disproportionately represented among those selected for redundancy. And redundancies are being implemented despite the availability of suitable alternative employment in the EHRC.
An emergency motion unanimously passed at PCS annual conference (23-25 May) pledged full support for the strikers and their campaign against redundancies. The campaign was also given a boost by the Labour Party election manifesto’s condemnation of the cuts imposed on the EHRC by the Tories, and the consequent undermining of the EHRC’s ability to fulfil its role: “Devastating cuts to the EHRC by the Conservatives reveal their real attitude, beyond the rhetoric, to issues of equality and discrimination. “A Labour government will enhance the powers and functions of the EHRC, making it truly independent, to ensure it can support ordinary working people to effectively challenge any discrimination they may face.”
Union activists can support what is now the longest-running industrial dispute in Britain by: • Support Cardiff picket line: Block 1, Spur D, Government Buildings, St Agnes Rd, Gabalfa. • Support Manchester picket line: Arndale House, The Arndale Centre. • Send donations to: PCS PSG Hardship Fund, Sort code: 608301. Account no: 20151243 • E-mail messages of support to PCS • Send messages of protest to: Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC CEO, Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8JX • Tweet messages of support at: @savetheehrc
Damning report on Unison election
The Assistant Certification Officer has delivered their report on the Unison General Secretary election dispute. The complaint was made by several activists and all General Secretary candidates, except Dave Prentis, over the time used by unelected full-time officials of the union to campaign for a “Team Dave” victory.
The election will not be re-run and that is the short statement that Unison “welcome the decision” with on their website. What they do not detail is the incredibly damning evidence and detail in the report. The ACO is scathing about the attitude shown in the audio recording of a meeting coordinated by Linda Perks, the now redeployed, but still employed, former London Regional Secretary. The staff member appointed to investigate the complaint failed to carry out a proper investigation or to interview relevant people. Intimidation was used against activists and other members of staff to persuade them not to assist the investigation.
There are a number of recommendations made about future conduct of elections, the deficiencies in Unison’s staffing policies, and the fact that rules were broken. The fight to democratise the union must be taken up urgently, but will come from activists pushing and winning members over to change rather then rulings from the ACO.
Unison left wins in NEC elections
The Unison Action Broad Left slate, comprising the SWP, SP, some of the Labour left, and others, has won 29 of the 67 seats on Unison’s NEC. The result for the first time means that the current General Secretary, Dave Prentis, does not have an outright majority. The Stronger Unison slate, a sycophantic group to Dave Prentis got 31 seats with the remaining seven a mixture of independents.
Unison Action is currently only an electoral lash up and will need to develop some proper structures and plans if it is to have any role in transforming the situation in branches and workplaces. There is likely to be some resistance to that as its guiding principles are in reality the “lowest common denominator” that the current leadership are wrong and need to be removed. The candidates elected represent supporters of three different general secretary candidates for the 2015 election.
The turnout was absolutely abysmal, with an average turnout of 4.62% in seats where every member can vote. The incoming NEC must start to address this decline and first and foremost this will mean building strength in workplaces by winning disputes and fighting to protect jobs and leading a real fight against the pay freeze.
Cinema workers strike again
Workers at East Dulwich Picturehouse in south London struck on Saturday 26 May. Cinema workers at Picturehouse Central, Hackney, Crouch End and the Ritzy in Brixton will strike on 3-4 June to coincide with Picturehouse Central hosting the Sundance Film Festival. Support for the strikes is growing. Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood visited and spoke at the picket line at East Dulwich Picturehouse on 26 May. Supporters of the strike are encouraged to join a demonstration at Picturehouse Central on Saturday evening. Despite Cineworld bosses promising talks after being confronted by Picturehouse workers at their AGM on 18 May, no negotiations have yet appeared.