“Equality at the heart of everything we do” needs to be more than a slogan. PCS has strong equality structures at all levels of the union, but there is often a disconnect between these structures and the broader work of the union. This needs to be addressed so that the slogan becomes a reality.
2.1 Nationally coordinated equality organising
The union should be a tool for black, women, LGBT+, disabled and neurodivergent workers to organise against inequality and discrimination, at work and in society.
This means undertaking the fundamental work to properly map out these constituencies and where they intersect in order to identify new workplace leaders and collective issues that we can tackle through members standing together on the shop floor. We can do this by building upon existing equality networks and the excellent activists in those networks, but bringing those networks and activists to the members in the workplace as a starting point for equality organising rooted in the jobs that our members do.
2.2 National equality bargaining
Many civil service policies, such as sickness trigger points, are inherently discriminatory. We can tackle these department by department, but we also need to be demanding that the CSEP policies which dictate departmental procedures are equality proofed and using campaigning plus possible legal test cases to challenge where this isn’t happening.
As with bargaining more broadly, we need to do this in a transparent and accountable way that links our activity at the bargaining table to that on the shop floor. We must be campaigning on the issues as we negotiate around them, shaping the direction of those talks through our collective power.
2.3 Challenging media narratives on “competing rights”
The most common line of attack against equality is the false notion of competing rights. This includes the decades-old propaganda that recruiting BAME and migrant workers is “positive discrimination” against white people, and more recently the notion that the rights of women and those of trans and non-binary people are at odds. The latter is particularly insidious in that whilst it is being driven and funded by the right-wing media, the American religious right and far-right groups as an anti-LGBT+ wedge issue, some on the left are repeating the same divisive rhetoric.
As trade unionists and socialists, we believe that an injury to one is an injury to all. An attack on one equality area is an attack on equality itself and will harm our members inside and out of the workplace. We must be proactive and unapologetic in speaking up against them in all circumstances.
2.4 Anti-fascism and anti-racism at the centre
The union needs to take a proactive stance against fascism, working with anti-fascist organising groups but also directly mobilising members. We ought to directly block and challenge fascist mobilisations, provide stewarding which puts the safety of attendees first, and provide political education to expose the bankruptcy of fascist ideas. Beyond the far-right we must also proactively take a stand against racist ideas that pervade society and institutional racism in government.