Ballot for action – vote yes, and build the rank-and-file

wpid-strikes-loudhailer-380w1The PCS Revenue & Customs Group Executive Committee yesterday (Wednesday 16 April) announced that it is to ballot all members in HMRC for industrial action. The ballot will run from Monday 28 April to Friday 16 May.

The ballot will be over the demands of the Jobs & Staffing Campaign, which include:

  • An agreement on staffing to ensure that there are enough staff to do the work.
  • Permanent jobs for all members on fixed term contracts.
  • An end to all current privatisation exercises and a commitment not to outsource any HMRC work in future.
  • A guarantee of no compulsory redundancies and no compulsory moves beyond reasonable daily travel.
  • An end to office closures, and for HMRC to retain a visible face to face presence in our communities.
  • An agreement on workload – reducing stress, over-stretch and demands on workers.
  • An immediate scrapping of the discredited performance management system.
  • A reduction in line managers’ spans of command, to reduce pressure and to allow managers to focus more on staff support and development.
  • A fully funded HMRC tackling avoidance and evasion – but also putting public service delivery at the heart of everything it does.

This comes in the wake of a series of recent attacks from the employer, including widespread office closures, a bid to privatise and digitise post handling and the removal of leave banking. They, like the attacks before them, show the employer’s contempt for its own staff as it lines up behind the government’s ideological drive to decimate public services and funnel taxxpayers’ money into private coffers.

We would urge all PCS members to take the time to vote in the upcoming ballot, and to vote YES for strike action and YES for action short of strike. A decisive mandate for action is needed in order to effectively fight back.

In addition, however, we would emphasise that the hard work of galvanising the workforce and putting pressure on the bosses doesn’t start once the ballot results are in but NOW. It is incumbent on everybody who believes in the need to win against these attacks to help organise and mobilise a strong rank-and-file which can lead the struggle from the ground.

In branches, we need to make mass meetings a standard and regular part of any campaign. These meetings should be open to the entire workforce – except senior management and those who cross picket lines – and should dictate local activity as well as feed suggestions back to the GEC.

Establishing strike committees should also be standard practice during a dispute. These committees should be elected by mass meetings, with the individuals on the committee accountable to and recallable by said meetings. This committee should be responsible for coordinating the work generated by decisions taken at mass meetings, including raising funds and coordinating activities such as leafleting, protests and picket lines. All funds raised need to be controlled directly by those taking strike action and not the GEC or full time officials.

Across the Group, we need to develop horizontal means of communication. If an initiative from one workplace proves effective, we should be able to spread it across other workplaces without running the risk of it being blocked or sat upon by a senior official. This could include anything from coordinating protests on specific days to sharing work-to-rule tactics.

By engaging in this kind of organisation, we not only place ourselves in the best position to challenge mismanagement of the dispute by the GEC, but make any action that does happen more effective and give members more confidence by bringing control of the dispute into the workplace.

Any members of Your Voice elected to the GEC in the ongoing elections will do their utmost to support this strategy, as well as to push the incoming GEC to meet as soon as possible after Conference and get the campaign up and running. They will also keep the membership fully informed so that decisions cannot be hidden behind closed doors away from the very people those decisions affect.

But, to reiterate, those on the GEC are only a part of the puzzle. What matters is that those of us at the coal face are organised and active, not just to follow the direction of those above but to lead from the front on the ground.  One thing is certain, members are tired of being led up the garden path. We welcome the words but we will be watching to make sure they translate into action.

This is our struggle and it is vital that it is we who control it.

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