We should demand Equal Pay!

A pay demand should be motivational; minimally members should be able to relate to it. Unfortunately our demand of 5% or £1,200 is neither of these things.

A better demand is for equal pay.

Now we set out the arguments why in a posting last year called ‘Towards a better claim.’ That can be read here https://pcsindependentleft.com/2017/11/12/towards-a-better-pay-claim/.

Quoting from that posting we said:

Psychologically though, it is easier to campaign for equal pay, to achieve something that already exists, for fairness, than just to ask for 5% or £1,200 – though in reality the effect of equal pay would be a greater increase for many. Of course there are possible legal remedies to win equal pay; there are none to win a 5% increase.

Critically even if we did win 5% or £1,200 that would still would leave many in the same grade on unequal pay. If we won a 5% increase that would in fact increase unequal pay; 5 % for better paid EOs would mean them moving further away from lesser paid EOs who also get 5%.

Therefore the PCS Independent Left (IL) wants to change the structure of pay and not just aim for an abstract number that has no grip in the reality. That is why the starting point has to be a demand for equal pay.

We are lumbered with the current demand, but during the pay campaign we should raise the demand for equalising pay. If the IL had been in charge of the union then the union’s prime demand would be for equal pay. If you want equal pay, for it to be a demand, right up, front and centre,  then we ask you to vote for the us in the current NEC elections and in the DWP and HMRC GEC elections.

Yes to strike action

If conference agrees there should be a strike ballot over pay then IL supporters will throw their heart and soul into winning the vote.

We should be clear though that if we win the vote and get over the 50% threshold it will be despite the current leadership, not because of them.

We have argued that once the results of the consultative ballot were announced in November last year PCS should have gone onto a war footing back then and made the call to be strike ready. Instead the leadership wasted months and only recently has it started to make more serious preparations for a ballot. We cannot get those lost months back.

It is looks as though now there will be frenzy of activity, compressed into a few weeks, to try and persuade the members to (a) vote (given the legislation, everyone who doesn’t vote is effectively a No vote) and (b) to vote Yes to action.

If this is the case, instead of implementing a  carefully worked out detailed plan – a plan that had been discussed and agreed by activists in advance – we are going to bet everything on the roll of the dice and ‘hope’ that it turns out OK.   This is not a serious way to run a campaign. In stark contrast the CWU spent seven months preparing for its strike ballot in Royal Mail. Their hard work was rewarded with a huge yes vote. They didn’t hope to win, they planned to win.

So if you want a union who also plans to win, which doesn’t waste months, in other words which is serious, then we ask you to vote for the Independent Left in the current NEC elections and in the DWP and HMRC GEC elections.


PCS in HMRC – vote for independent socialist candidates

A small group of independent socialists is standing for election to the HMRC Group Executive Committee. We are standing because we believe we can bring new ideas and enthusiasm into the Group leadership at a time when it is sorely needed.

Low pay in HMRC has reached the point where the Department had to give AA grade staff an additional uplift in order to meet the minimum wage it is supposed to enforce. The AO grade is not far off the same fate, whilst even at higher grades the pay cap continues to bite.

The office closure programme continues at pace, with the department shedding 75,000 years of experience through redundancy in 2017. The fact that there will be glaring gaps in compliance coverage around the UK has done little to stop the rot, nor the realisation that even as jobs are going Brexit will require an additional 5,000 staff.

Privatisation, and with it terminal low pay and appalling conditions, are rife across the estate. HMRC wants to shed its in-house security provision and have private companies take on the role. Our mail services have already gone over to the private sector. Overworked and underpaid cleaning staff are struggling to offer the bare minimum standards whilst their bosses make off with taxpayers’ money.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. The question is, what do we do about it?

Building strength in workplaces – The union’s strength is its members, and we are at our strongest when members and branches have the confidence to lead from the front. This means an organising strategy built around emboldening the workforce.

Taking the lead from members – The union’s negotiators have to be accountable to members. This means that instead of talks taking place behind closed doors and in confidence, they need to be done out in the open. Members should be kept up-to-date and they should have the final say on whether what we get out of management is good enough or whether we need to take action in order to push further.

Organising in-house and outsourced workers together – Some of the most inspiring victories that the union movement is winning of late are with precarious and low paid workers, more often than not outsourced. There are plenty of such workers on the HMRC estate, and we need to be organising them alongside civil servants and taking inspiration from the strategy and tactics pursued by other unions to build leverage and win their demands on pay and conditions.

Fighting not just to stop attacks but to win improvements – HMRC staff are under attack on a number of fronts. But that doesn’t mean we need to always be on the back foot. Rather than fighting to stand still, we need to ensure that our resistance to the employer’s attacks is rooted in demands for tangible improvements. When they say that we’ve got too big a slice of the pie, we need to be pointing out that we’re the reason there’s a pie at all and demanding more of it.

Effective, imaginative action – If we take strike action, it should be unapologetically aimed at disrupting the businesses. We can protest on our own time but strikes need to be more. We need real strategies to hit peaks, prevent the department from hitting targets and to slow things down on the job – unless HMRC are willing to give us what we want.

Building a real opposition – Over the past few years, the number of people willing to stand for the GEC has dwindled to the point that in the 2017 elections just one person lost out in the vote. The Group faced the real risk of uncontested elections for the leadership.

Such a monopoly is not good for any organisation. It serves only to stifle debate, discourage new activists from coming forward and offers up only a stale complacency.

It is our hope that seeing an independent group standing will encourage others to contemplate doing so in the future. We want more people to stand; people who do the work have important knowledge and experience to offer to the union and the union badly needs new ideas – which often come from newer reps rather than those long immersed in ‘the way things are done’.

If you agree with all of the above, then please support the following candidates in the HMRC Group Elections:

Assistant Group Secretaries

Phil Dickens

Steve Ryan

Group Executive Committee members

Phil Dickens

Steven Griffiths

Phil Millar

Steve Ryan

Annette Wright

Do they mean us?

In their first election leaflet, Left Unity (LU) claim that their opposition in the NEC elections, which is us, is ‘right wing’. They further claim that the opposition, which is us, supported the coup many years ago to remove Mark Serwotka from being the General Secretary.

When challenged, their leaders say a mistake was made and parts of last year’s leaflets (which is more or less the same as the year before, and the year before that etc) were used. But despite that, they have not withdrawn the leaflet, or printed a retraction. Therefore they are content for the falsehoods to circulate.

Of course the irony is that the frequent charge against us is that we are ‘ultra left’, rather than right wing.

Moreover, the LU leadership know that Mark Serwotka used to be ‘one of us’.

Before we launched Independent Left, many of us were in the Socialist Caucus (SC). Before he was elected General Secretary (GS) Mark Serwotka was a member of the SC. It was the SC and the SWP in PCS who lead the campaign to get Mark elected as GS in the first place. Those in the leadership of today’s LU opposed him standing.

Of course all of this is little known. We keep meaning to publish the true story of how Mark Serwotka got to where he did, including publishing the email from Janice Godrich calling on him not to stand as GS but that is a story for another day.

So when Mark was threatened by the ‘real’ right wing, we as SC, fully backed him.

Of course this whole affair says a lot about the state of the union. LU, who run the union, cannot get their facts straight and even when they admit a mistake, don’t act on it and retract a falsehood. To to get away from this toy town stuff is why are standing.

So if you want a serious union, Vote PCS Independent Left.

For a different direction

Ballot papers for the PCS NEC election have been posted.

The union is in trouble. Despite weathering considerable attacks by the Tories, we are still nationally unable to arrest and reverse falling membership density figures, the biggest decline in pay and conditions in living memory and the lowest membership engagement in the union’s history.

Fixing the problem (which exists right across the movement) requires more than the publication of an updated organising strategy.

We need to look beyond the stale British trade unionism of recent years; to movements abroad and the emergence of unions here such as the IWGB.

So voting and electing PCS Independent Left candidates will raise the banner for a fundamental rethink in how we do business and for unashamed militancy.

All of our candidates are workplace activists. This year some have led strikes in their branches against office closures or of cleaners demanding fair pay. Some are well experienced, skilled lead negotiators who have ensured that members in their departments have had contractual protection against many of the attacks over the past decade.

If you think the union is trouble and needs a different direction then Vote PCS Independent Left.