There is little doubt that PCS R&C group is in serious trouble. After a summer of industrial action the GEC took the decision to “suspend” all action to enter talks with the bosses.
This might have been OK but for the fact that the bosses have used this tactic so many times from Lean dispute to the enabling agreement (anyone remember that these days?) and always the result is the same…nothing.
This time it’s worse as, within days of the talks allegedly starting, 14 offices were given the final death knell and nearly 1,000 workers told they were not needed any more. This while the department still spends millions on overtime to get the backlogs of work done.
This is not just about the lack of direction of the GEC however. Whilst members are in many areas supporting the industrial action the fact is that many also are becoming disaffected. Turnouts in GEC ballots are very low, and good long standing members are leaving.
It looks pretty bad doesn’t it? Yes, but there are signs of hope. The threat of action in Dundee got a result. For once the bosses couldn’t ignore members or blame it on a remote out of touch leadership. In Merthyr members walked out after the closure announcements. The mood for action over things like job losses and PMR is still there. But many members do not see any gains or actions that are hurting the bosses.
So what is to be done?
Firstly it’s time for all branches to reconnect to the members. This means mass meetings, leafleting, and 1-2-1 conversations. We need to gain an understanding as to what the members feel are their big issues, and what they would want to do about them.
Secondly we need to take a lead from Dundee and Merthyr. We need to regain the confidence to do it ourselves where there are real opportunities and members are angry and willing. This rank and file approach has a noble history and has seen real gains for workers in industries much less organised than the civil service.
NDC submissions should go in where workable; health and safety issues should also be progressed rigorously
Thirdly we need to look carefully at what actions we could take that would seriously hurt the bosses. One day strikes and a token work to rule simply have not done that. Action needs to be serious, targeted and disruptive. This isn’t a game, members are losing their jobs, terms and conditions, struggling to make ends meet whilst the bosses waste money on celebrations at Westminster abbey and pay themselves large bonuses.
Fourthly we need to keep the dialogue going between members branches and the GEC but this now has to be a serious discussion on the way forward. There needs to be a call for the GEC to convene meetings with branches soon. Equally the time is ripe for a rank and file meeting in November for all genuinely wanting a rank and file opposition to austerity
Fifth and final. Let’s stop being reactive. Flexi, 30 days leave, the 37 hour week and more were fought for. Where is that vision now? What happened to our canteens, gyms, subsidised buses to work? We need a new manifesto that tackles head on the neo-con vision of public services, one that seeks to build a radical public service.
More enquiries centres not less, enough staff to deal with enquiries promptly and efficiently, workers with decent pay, 30 hour week, multi-skilled and trained, and more. Imagination after all is seizing power.
Our first action should be to hold car park meetings in all of our branches as soon as possible. Find out from members if there is a hunger for a different type of action, led by the members in the branches. Hopefully we’ll have their backing and can go from there.
Agree? Then get going, get in touch. We have nothing to lose but our chains.