Our intervention in this election is unprecedented in the history of PCS. In previous elections, the union has run a neutral campaign called “make your vote count”.
Some in the union were worried that our stance would provoke a negative response from members, and maybe even resignations from people who wanted the union to remain strictly apolitical, but this hasn’t materialised.
The previous line proceeded from the premise that all parties were objectively the same, and our job was simply to provide members with information about their various policies, especially those affecting the civil service, in a neutral way. It assumed that there was no fundamental difference between any of the parties on a structural level.
That was an essentially passive, apolitical stance which has now been replaced by our active, political intervention into this election. That change is clearly in large part in response to a change in the Labour Party itself, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but is also a reflection of socialists inside PCS having consistently made arguments about the need for an active political orientation based on the principles of labour representation in politics.
Following the election, there’ll be a discussion about the union’s future relationship to the Labour Party. In the immediate term, that’s unlikely to take the form of direct affiliation, but our intervention in this election has given members a taste for political campaigning, and has been well received by Labour Party activists as well.
On the industrial front, PCS members at two HMRC offices in Merseyside are striking from 2-4 December. These members are outsourced cleaners, and are employed by ISS, which has a number of contracts across the civil service.
They’ve now struck several times, demanding a pay increase to £10 per hour, and equal terms and conditions with directly employed staff. After these strikes we’ll discuss the next steps for the dispute, as we may need to escalate in order to win.
The union is also moving to seek recognition with Aramark, one of the outsourced contractors at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, where an all-out strike recently won living wages for outsourced workers.
We recently held a campaign meeting for outsourced workers’ reps, and are planning to step up our organising and campaigning efforts in 2020.
• John Moloney is Assistant General Secretary of the PCS. He writes in a personal capacity