The consultative ballot begins on 12 June and we then have until the 30 June to get the biggest turnout and biggest yes vote. But this will not be easy.
As always we have to make a standing start, where the union tries to ‘switch’ the members into action after months of inaction and no campaign. Now all of a sudden because the leadership wants it, there is a flood of material and a frenzy of activity.
We have said in the past that PCS’ leaders use the membership as a stage army, activating them when they want it and then ignoring them when they are no longer needed. This is the case again this time. The union has discovered suddenly that we are all underpaid and we need a pay rise. Yet earlier in the year there was next to nothing being put out by the union about pay.
If it had not been for the ballots by Unison etc. we would not be looking to take any action and certainly there would be no concentration on pay as an issue. This indicates the artificial nature of the dispute. The leadership were indifferent or at least silent about the need for a real campaign on pay until other unions started campaigning over it as an issue. Then, in the functional way that the leadership operates they decided we need a pay campaign ourselves (from the drop down menu of issues; jobs, pay, pensions etc.). In the here and now pay has to be emphasised but truth be told the leadership is indifferent to the issue – it could just as well have been –pensions – the key thing for them is follow the other unions.
In contrast we argue for systematic campaigning all year long over pay, jobs, retirement age and so on; not when a strike or consultative ballot is needed to be won. After years of frozen and squeezed pay and mass job cuts there is plenty of raw material to campaign on, all year round.
Take equal pay. If you are an AO or an EO, in particular, then pay rates for these grades vary enormously between departments and agencies. There can be a 5%, 10% or 20% difference! For years we have urged the union to systematically and relentlessly to publish these differences; the idea being to inculculate into member’s minds that if you are not paid the highest rate in the civil service for your grade then you are being underpaid i.e. that there is a going rate for the job (the highest) and that you are being ripped off if you don’t get it.
So a different way to campaign is possible. We will be doing our best to get as many members to vote and to votes yes but as we said at the head of this piece – it will not be easy.