In May 2016 the union won a legal ruling that check off in DWP was a contractual right, hence the union was entitled to damages for lost subscriptions.
Shortly after the ruling the union claimed that other departments were equally liable to pay damages as they had acted in the same arbitrary manner as DWP.
To date though the DWP has not paid the damages, nor as far as we know have any other department admitted liability, let alone paid any monies.
Now we hear through the grapevine that a court hearing has been arranged to determine the monies DWP owes to the union but we don’t know what is happening in the other departments. Certainly there is no discussion in the wider union as to how we should be use the money when we get it.
Our fear is that it will be largely used to benefit full timers – that is used to top up the pension funds and to recruit more FTOs and increase their pay.
Whilst we have to ensure that the pension funds are solvent, we don’t see recruiting more Full Time Officers, which actually means recruiting more friends and allies of the current leadership, as a key next-step ‘investment’. We would want the monies to be directed to the activists, to real organising, to greatly increasing access to good legal advice etc.
In a membership lead union – which we are told we are – surely the membership should have a say in how the money should be spent?
Being told, ‘well the National Executive Committee (NEC) will decide and they are elected by the membership and therefore the members ‘lead’ through the NEC’, is not good enough. It is the same as saying MPs are elected and therefore whatever they do is democratically sanctioned. We don’t accept that argument so we don’t accept it for the NEC either. In any case, like MPs, most of the decisions are made by a sub-set of the NEC and ‘party’ discipline then keeps most of the rest of the NEC in line.
What the NEC should do therefore, is set the facts out for the members as to what legal actions are being fought and what might be won and then consult branches as to what can be done with the extra money. This could then be expressed in an ADC motion for voting on. Of course there are other ways that membership can influence the decision. We have set out just one way above.
The Independent Left (IL) is standing in the 2018 elections because it wants to fundamentally change the union. We don’t believe that just electing us will solve the union’s problems. If we had the power then we would want to devolve that down to the activists and members. We actually do want a membership led union. How that would work in practice is for a democratic debate within PCS. So if you really do want such a change in the union then please vote for us, but only as a first step.