The money is there

Whilst having no illusions in employment law, the Independent Left (IL) recognises that members expect the union to legally fight hard. Further the labour movement has fought long and hard to win certain laws. Not to enforce those laws is to undo all that hard work and in fact is to retreat, leaving the employer unchallenged. Given this, it probably won’t surprise you to find that we are critical of the current legal-advice arrangements in the union.

From what we can see, PCS has now adopted a triage system whereby Full Time Officers (FTOs) decide which cases merit going to Thompsons. This system is inherently problematic.

FTOs are not legally trained; many have less experience than the reps putting forward the cases and the whole point of the system to ‘stop’ cases being forwarded to the solicitors. Given that cost is driving the system then any notion of using the law as a weapon, to win test cases, to advance member’s interest is lost (that all costs money). Of course all this is a further example of activists and unions having to act as supplicants to their own union; having to persuade an FTO for help, from a union that the activists and members fund.

We in IL want to change all that. We recognise money is tight. This is no surprise when you pay in total over £160,000 (not including pension costs) to the two most senior union officials. Mark and Chris could ‘give’ up say £60,000 between them, still earn much more than the great bulk of us and still have a very comfortable life. That voluntary contribution would be a form of socialism in action. The £60K would fund many legal cases. Money is tight because we spend much too much of it on FTO pay. We want to change that. Money is there to fight cases, to organise etc, but it is going to the wrong causes.

We want to use the law as a weapon, to win test cases, to advance member’s interest is lost and to protect individual members. Yes, all of that costs money, and we are willing to spend it. If you are as well, then vote IL.


It’s your money, so you should have a say in how it is spent

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.


Too many hours and no pay to show for it

A review of Office for National Statistics working hour data by the GMB union in 2017 found that 17% of central government workers, including civil servants, regularly work at an average of 6.9 hours a week unpaid overtime.

The GMB  say that civil servants are regularly working an average of seven hours unpaid overtime a week as part of an estimated £11bn worth of unpaid hours worked across the public sector.

The FDA (which represents Senior Civil Servants and Fast Streamers)  has conducted working time surveys amongst its members over the last few years

Commenting on a recent such survey, the FDA said:

Worthy of repeating, that last one: one in 10 are working the equivalent of a seven day week, every week. Most of this is unpaid overtime. Although in some employers flexi time, time off in lieu or overtime payment systems exist, these can be cumbersome and, of course, if you take time off there’s no-one to fill the gap or, as one member put it, this “would lead to more out of contracted hours, in order to keep on top of my workload volume.

This is a picture not of peaks and troughs, but systemic long-hours working that is having an impact on the public servants the country is relying upon.

The Independent Left (IL) recognises that unpaid work is an increasing problem in the civil service and indeed the wider public service. Unpaid work is a subsidy to the employer and is a ‘free’ productivity gain.

We take the trade union view that if you work it, then you must be paid for it. Also despite the Working Time Regulations and the Working Time Directive, in many work places this unpaid over-time is not being recorded.

Of course by not recording this working time the Working Time Regulations and the Working Time Directive are effectively bypassed/neutralised and the minimum health standards set out in them are effectively being ignored.

Whilst this unrecorded, in-excess, unpaid work problem is most prevalent in central parts of the departments, anywhere which has flexible IT, which allows home, travel and not-in –the office working, then this problem will be present and probably will be getting worse.

As far as we can see, the current union leadership is not aware of this problem; notwithstanding that it has nothing to say about the problem.

We are seeking therefore as minimum steps that:

  • the national union runs a publicity campaign on ‘working your hours’; this campaign to be supportive of flexible working but emphasising that this is flexibility within your contracted hours;
  • the problem is raised with the employer, asking them to take action under health and safety law and to pay staff for any excess working;
  • That we argue that the union runs test cases to prove that hours worked in excess of the contract should be counted as working time.

The above are only minimum steps but at least they are a start. The IL is standing in the 2018 elections because it wants to fundamentally change the union. Electing us in would also be a minimum step, but it would be a start.

Our slate for the NEC elections


We of course are not naive enough to believe that if we were to win positions then things would change for the better overnight. Our winning would be a first step. The key thing we want to do is activate the ‘activists’ and the membership. We actually do believe in a membership lead union and our aim is that this happens in reality rather than in rhetoric. If you want that too then please support us in the union elections. If you want that too why not join us? On to a better union, vote IL.

President: Bev Laidlaw, DWP


Leon searle DWP,
Bryan Carlsen HSE,
Phil Dickens R&C,
John Moloney DfT


Tom Bishell, DWP
Bryan Carlsen, HSE
Ralph Corrigan, PSg
Chris Day, National Archives
Phil Dickens, R&C
Chris Hickey, CLG
Karen Johnson, CLG
Bev Laidlaw, DWP
Chris Marks, DWP
Charlie McDonald, DWP
John Moloney, DfT
Paulette Romain, CLG
Leon Searle. DWP
George Thompson, DWP

For a better union

IL supports striking DVSA PCS members

On  4 and 5 December, PCS members in DVSA, an agency within Department for Transport (DfT), took strike action. The strike concerned payment for all  work related activities, in particular travel time between workplaces.  Presently DfT will only pay for a certain amount of the time spent travelling. The union of course wants all the travel time to be paid.

The strike  was well supported overall but there are clearly areas where the union has to work to improve the turnout next time.

The next, and in some ways more important phase of the dispute, centres on work to contract action.

DfT introduced a new form of driving test on the 4 December, over the strong objections from the union.  The Department wants a fixed number of tests to be carried out within the working day.

The problem is that this cannot be readily done as the new test is timed longer than the old test, so many Driving Examiners will find themselves not being able to ‘fit’ in the last test into the working day. They will be forced either to cancel this test (which is what working to contract will mean) or take the test but work ‘over time’ for no extra pay. The test itself also has dangerous features that are supposed to mimic real world driving but will increase the chances of accidents on test.  Working to contract means stopping a test if the candidate is driving dangerously rather than guide the candidate back to base. Using this tactic will mean many cancelled and stopped tests, all of which hits DVSA’s bottom line.

The government has demanded that PCS end the dispute before it will start talks aimed at resolving it. PCS has rightly rejected that demand. Interestingly, the Labour Party has now intervened and written to the DfT Secretary of State saying that talks must start without any preconditions.

Given the specific nature of the dispute it is probable that it cannot be escalated to the rest of the Department but nevertheless the wider union can and must show solidarity even if only in the form of fund raising. The dispute can be won but it probably will be a long struggle. In principle, if you carry out a work related activity then you should be paid for it. No free work should be allowed.