Unions & Equalities

Section 44 and the civil service

Civil service employers have been reticent to go for a return-to-work drive in the short to medium term. The Cabinet Office informed the union that they would continue to support homeworking. That approach isn’t completely uniform, and the Cabinet Office hasn’t exerted any particular pressure to rein in departmental employers who are taking a different approach, but there has been no central, concerted, back-to-work lurch. The major exception to this is the outsourced contractors, who have behaved appallingly and are forcing workers to continue working despite the buildings they clean or...

Industrial news in brief

UVW at St George's Outsourced security workers in the United Voices of the World union (UVW) at St. George’s University in Tooting, south London, are continuing their campaign for equality. UVW members and supporters recently occupied the lobby of the main St. George’s building during a university open day, holding an impromptu rally addressed by St. George’s strikers, UVW reps from victorious anti-outsourcing campaigns at LSE and St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, and an RMT activist. UVW is also preparing what it describes as a “landmark legal case” to challenging outsourcing in court. The...

How unions should tackle sexism

It’s HeartUnions from 10 to 16 February 2020. I was reminded of the week of activity, highlighting the work of unions, by a parcel from the TUC arriving at my union office announcing the focus this year is on sexual harassment. It was accompanied by a letter from our co-ordinated industrial leadership, bringing together 48 unions and 5.5 million members, and declaring “a radical yet practical plan” to end sexual harassment. Over 1/2 women and nearly 7/10 LGBT workers are sexually harassed in the workplace. Subjecting women to fear, shame, and discomfort in a workplace, street or union meeting...

Brexit, the white working class and liberal left

Six months ago now a debate was sparked by comments made by Eddie Dempsey, an activist for “full Brexit” and in the rail union RMT, at a “Full Brexit” rally on 26 March. Dempsey said that “people that turn up for those Tommy Robinson demos or any other march like that – the one thing that unites those people, whatever other bigotry is going on, is their hatred of the liberal left and they are right to hate them ” (emphasis added). He further commented that “too many in the Labour Party have made a calculation that there’s a certain section at the top end of the working class, in alliance with...

RMT activists oppose Lewis expulsion decision

The conference on 23-27 June of the rail union RMT passed, by a majority of two votes with six abstentions, a motion expelling left Labour MP Clive Lewis from the RMT’s Parliamentary Group. The conference decided that Lewis should be expelled unless he retracts and apologises for the criticisms he made of comments by RMT member Eddie Dempsey from the platform of a “Full Brexit” rally. RMT activists who oppose the decision are circulating a statement of protest, already signed by numerous AGM delegates as well dozens of other union activists. Lewis criticised Dempsey’s assertion that Tommy...

PCS leadership censured for evasions on trans rights

Motion A21 at the 2019 conference of civil service union PCS dealt with the leadership's approach to trans rights. (See the motions document , p12.) In 2017 and 2018 conference voted to support amendment of the Gender Recognition to facilitate self-identification; despite opposition from the NEC in 2017 these motions passed overwhelmingly. This year A21 condemned and proposed censure of the NEC for its response and for General Secretary Mark Serwotka’s unilateral signatory of a letter published in the Morning Star , alongside numerous vehemently trans-exclusionary individuals, suggesting that...

CWU faces change

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) met for its conference on 29 April-3 May. It took place as the union finalised reorganisation plans ("Redesign"), to tackle declining membership, in the context of industrial change in both the telecoms/financial services and post/courier sectors. An emergency motion from the National Executive on Brexit passed at the union′s general conference (attended by delegates from both sides of the union) was widely reported in the press. The conference voted decisively for ″Labour′s Manifesto commitment″ to deliver ″a Brexit deal that prioritises jobs and living...

PCS: step back and think

Our union, PCS, announced on 30 April that our pay ballot had failed to get the 50% turnout required by law. Since then the union leadership has announced its next step as "to hold a further statutory ballot for industrial action over pay at the earliest appropriate time". That proposal will go as an emergency motion to our conference on 21-23 May. To go for another push as soon as possible to edge us over the 50% mark would be wrong. We need to step back and think why we couldn't get even 50% of our membership to open an envelope, tick a box, and send back the form. The problems are not just...

Accessible Workplaces

On 26-27 April more than thirty disabled transport workers attended the RMT trade union’s largest Disabled Members’ Conference yet. Every delegate contributed to debates and discussions, which covered subjects including accessible public transport, mental health, and “reasonable adjustments”. On the latter, the conference stressed that our priority is to win accessible workplaces, rather than leave the onus on individual workers to ask for personal changes. Delegates also condemned the personality testing used by many employers, which seeks to enforce social conformity in the workplace and...

Equalise civil service pay!

John Moloney is standing for the Assistant General Secretary position in the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), as part of an Independent Left slate for the union's National Executive Committee. He spoke to Solidarity about his election campaign, and PCS's current ballot for industrial action over pay in the civil service. The union's headline demand is for a 10% pay increase. That has been variously interpreted as a demand for a 10% increase to the overall civil service pay budget, or a 10% increase per worker. The Independent Left argues that the union should foreground the demand...

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