By Ian Hough, candidate for the Standing Orders Committee
Some have us have realised that things need to change because we believe there is a gap between the members of PCS and the GEC. It’s about time someone acknowledged that low turnouts in Union elections and poor attendance at many General meetings actually means silence from a powerful voice that needs to be heard.
We believe there are Branch representatives out there who also feel something has gone wrong and that there is a gap between the GEC and most Branches. In fact Branch Committees that feel connected are probably those that include a GEC member, although even this isn’t the case if you are not in the relevant faction or you are and the GEC rep isn’t.
There is vibrant competition for some elected positions but even that doesn’t inspire 90% of members to vote. However 100% of members know about the Union, many look out for Union advice and all of us turn to a rep when faced with an issue at work.
I have never been asked by a member seeking help “are you Left Unity or not” before they decide whether to let me represent them. That thought switched a light on for me and I realised that the way we interact with individual members we assist if done successfully takes account of what they need, their expectations, law, guidance, how far they were prepared to go, what evidence and ideas etc they have. This means that as the case develops, the member owns it and can support and understand the actions being taken. Many a rep became one after being assisted themselves. We should strive for support and understanding on the same basis with larger collective decisions.
I am hoping to get elected to the Standing Orders Committee. The role of the SOC is something that I have to explain to most people I work with, yet it is the group of people that put together the annual conference agenda so that all the motions from members can be debated and the following year’s policy can be decided.
Unfortunately, after conference the SOC have no power to ensure these motions are followed by the GEC. I preformed this role once before in 2013 and saw motions go from office to branch to conference to GEC, and still something troubled me. It still didn’t seem that the people around me at work day-to-day felt involved or had any ownership of the Union’s direction. The Union they pay for and sometimes lose pay for.
The answer is surprisingly simple: the Union needs to start listening to the members.
It’s time to end the practice of factions dominating the GEC. Most people don’t care about them anyway. To know how to work towards that end, it helps if people who have been in those factions and gotten to see how they operate use that experience to get around them and work towards getting the GEC to listen to all members. It’s also important those people are willing to work with whoever gets elected to achieve this. It’s especially important to communicate with members when others are stopping this process for their own ends or for the sake of their faction retaining power.
We believe we have listened and heard that PMR is something unpopular, even hated, by members and managers alike. Whatever happens on other issues, members would prefer a GEC that got legal advice on how to stop cooperating with PMR. Some teams would like support to walk out at times about it. Many believe that the GEC should serve notice of disagreement with PMR calling for a pay rise for all instead.
We believe managers and staff would welcome a break from PMR for a few years in order to focus on real work. What we have heard is more about the time the system wastes. Surely there is a case to demonstrate that that lost time has a financial value that can be negotiated with. Couldn’t we see half of that saved and the other half go towards tackling pay progression?
That’s just one example of listening and trying to come up with a different approach. Trying to come up with positive demands. When was the last time you were given input into what demands negotiators should prepare? Instead of being balloted out of the blue. Instead of having a campaign dictated to us based on what the GEC want instead of what the members want.
We would like the chance to ensure more of this type of discussion and thinking can be applied to issues. We would like to get the chance to encourage you to get together in small workplace groups to feed into the Union and provide ideas we desperately need.
To get your voice heard above the shouting or deafening silence of the factions who have up till now ran the show please consider voting for those laying down the gauntlet for change.