At this year’s conference in May the IL issued a leaflet entitled “Time for honest accounting”.
We said, “The Tory led Coalition is responsible for the attacks on PCS members and PCS right wingers who seek to blame the NEC for the Tories’ attacks should hang their head in shame. Nevertheless the Left Unity/Democracy NEC must be judged on how well it has prepared the Union for, and responded to, the Coalition’s assaults: it’s a poor record.”
We went onto say, under the sub-heading, “Check off and contractual rights”, “For over a decade Independent Left (IL) has argued for the incorporation of the positive provisions of civil service Handbooks into members’ contracts of employment. Last September, our policy was vindicated when the High Court cited the explicit incorporation of check off into DCLG members’ contracts and declared Eric Pickles’ abolition of the arrangement in DCLG to be unlawful. The incorporation of check off and other provisions in DCLG reflected the work of IL members and IL policy…”
We continued, under the sub-heading, “Failure to prepare”, “The courts cannot be relied upon to uphold the rights of trade unionists. Nevertheless the LU/Democracy NEC should have negotiated contractual rights for members years ago and should have started moving members to direct debit at least over a year ago when the Tories advised local councils to consider ending check off.”
The current leadership was given warning of what was to come but they did nothing.
Dec 2012: Pickles urges Local Authorities (LAS) to charge for or end check off
In December 2012 Eric Pickles issued advice to local authorities entitled, “50 ways to save”. Recommendation number 32 was “Charge for collecting trade union subscriptions: Councils can exercise existing legal rights to charge trade unions for the collection of trade union subscription fees via the municipal payroll (so-called ‘check off’ arrangements).” https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/39264/50_ways_2.pdf.
The hostility to trade unionism, not just local government trade unionism, was obvious (“so-called” check-off). The PCS leadership did not respond.
March 2013: Pickles urges LAS to charge for or end check off
However if the December 2012 warning was not enough for the PCS leadership then DCLG’s next document, “Taxpayer funding of trade unions. Delivering sensible savings in local government”, issued in March 2013 should have been (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/136079/Taxpayer_funding_of_Trade_Unions_-_Sensible_Savings.pdf)
In a document marked by its hostility to free trade unionism, it says amongst other things, “Councils should charge for collecting union subscriptions, or end the practice completely.” The Coalition Government is not in charge of local government as the direct employer. It is in charge of the civil service: short of sending the PCS leadership a note in BIG LETTERS saying what they were thinking of, it is difficult to see how much plainer the Government’s intentions could be. PCS leadership did not respond.
PCS Beats Pickles in DCLG
When Pickles moved to end check-off in DCLG – where he was thwarted in the High Court in September 2013 – the danger to PCS was utterly obvious:
• The defeat of Pickles was legally based upon the IL policy of contractual incorporation (check-off had been incorporated into individual contracts of employment).
• The absence of such incorporated rights anywhere else other than DfT (which was also the beneficiary of the IL policy) obviously left PCS exposed.
Yet even in the wake of the High Court case, when PCS had breathing space, the NEC did not take urgent steps to move members onto DD.
If you attended conference you will remember the leadership saying that the changeover to DD started then but, erm…it didn’t. It was many weeks after conference before any serious efforts were made to go to direct debit and that in reality was because the Tories had flagged up their intent to end check off.
It has only been in the last few months that the union has begun in any serious way to move members over to DD. If they had started to do this in 2013, after the Pickles case then we would be in a much better way now.
So the current leadership has proven itself unfit to lead but they are denying the membership the right to judge them on their record. They don’t trust the members to vote for them so they cut out the middle people and vote themselves into continuing power.
Let the members have a vote!!