Presenting the 2010 PCS organising strategy, assistant general secretary Chris Baugh told delegates that the recommended approach would allow us to grow and become more successful.
“The incoming government is not pro-union. Our organising committee is looking at the steps we need to take to defend ourselves.
Chris praised our young members’ network saying it “gives a lie to the argument that young workers are not interested in politics and joining a union.”
Turning to union education and learning, Chris condemned the government’s plans to cut this important area of our work. Chris said the union was keen to invite activists to become lay tutors and we were looking at how we train our reps.
“Union learning adds £18billion to our economy,” said Chris. “Union learning reps are also more representative of the union movement as a whole than other union positions. It is also important to remember that, like health and safety reps, learning reps have important statutory rights.” Conference endorsed the strategy.
Motion A40 called on the NEC to work up detailed proposals and consult members on supporting or standing union candidates in elections.
The motion, which was taken together with A41 in a general debate, was moved by vice president John McInally. John spoke of the important role our Make Your Vote Count campaign plays “to fight the pro-market consensus that underpins the current attacks on public servants.
“To defend our jobs, pay and pensions we must take our fight into the political arena. If we just fight industrially it is like fighting with our hands tied behind our backs.
“Members have shown strong support for our MYVC campaign. 65% of those responding to our consultation also support the union standing or supporting political candidates. Nevertheless, the detail will need to be clarified and ratified. It is vital we work this out in close consultation with members, and take this to ADC 2011. We need a full membership ballot and democratic accountability.”
Seconding, Revenue and Customs Leicestershire said the branch was initially concerned that the motion could result in us becoming affiliated to, or funding, one particular political party but was now happy this would not be the case. “However, one round of consultation would not be enough,” said the speaker.
In a lively debate, Rachel Barraclough, DWP East Lancashire, opposed the motion saying that the branch did not believe conference would be able to come to a majority on one single proposal.
“After our Make Your Vote Count campaign and compensation scheme victory, this would be throwing bad money after good. The proposals recommended in this motion won’t be able to give us the same level of influence as those campaigns. We have a finite amount of money; we need to use it wisely.”
Adding support, HMRC East Kilbride said their local MP hadn’t even replied to the branch’s invite to attend a hustings. “So we tied a balloon to a chair to represent him instead.”
Greig Liddell, Scottish Parliament, opposed the motion saying that in the 10 years since devolution the branch had flourished. “Our codes of conduct say staff must be impartial. By passing this motion PCS would become, in effect, a political party.
Alan Runswick, HMRC Liverpool, added his branch’s support saying PCS would not be standing candidates on our own. “We do not think it is waste of time to have this debate. It would be good to have a vote, in particular in key by-elections where no other candidate supports our campaign aims.”
Responding, John McInally said the debate “gave great credit to our union.” The motion was carried.
Land Registry Stevenage’s Michael Kavanagh moved A44 on the campaign against the disgraceful treatment of PCS rep Jane Brooke, who was dismissed by the agency after being off sick with RSI and being accused of fraud.
“Management’s disgraceful treatment of Jane makes me sick to the pit of my stomach” said Michael. “It is the most disgraceful attack on civil liberties I have ever seen.”
Michael told delegates that Jane was subjected to over six months of video surveillance and the “hiring of a shady private detective film at a cost of £40k of tax payers’ money.”
Michael urged delegates to support Jane and any other cases of victimisation of our reps, saying: “An injury to one of us is an injury to us all.”
Jane took to the podium herself to second the motion, speaking movingly of her experiences.
Jane conveyed the impact the case had had on her life saying: “I was shell shocked. The word ‘fraud’ horrifies me. I would have had a fairer trial if I had gone to the police.
“Attacks like these must be ferociously challenged. Reps must be able to work in a safe environment, free from bullying.”
Emily Kelly, NEC, added support to the motion saying: “I have never seen such a severe case of bullying. We will mobilise the whole union to defend this injustice.”
A63 called for the removal of Crown immunity from government departments in order to force them to abide by the law. HMRC southwest’s Martin Menenr, said: “Our department wants more for less. It also refuses to cooperate by giving us statistics that we can cite as evidence on health and safety concerns. These issues dramatically affect the health, safety and welfare of our members.” Conference agreed and passed the motion.
Debbie Mallet, HMRC East Kilbride, moved motion A64 on ensuring managers take instruction on managing stress in the workplace. “Workers are facing so many attacks right now that it will eventually push them over the edge. Employers will continue to try to pass the difficult economic climate onto us. Stress will continue to grow.” The motion was passed.
Moving motion A622 on supporting public sector workers in Greece, East Midlands HMRC branch told delegates: “Greek workers are extremely poorly paid, bonuses only bring them up to a living wage. Their final salary pension rights are also being taken away. Does any of this sound familiar? They are being treated like the bad guys rather than the bankers that are making obscene sums on the back of public sector workers. We need to build links with our sister union in Greece to support these workers.”
Seconding, ETR Nottingham said: “If we think we have it bad, spare a thought for our Greek counterparts. Greek workers are saying ‘enough is enough’ – it’s not our mess, we shouldn’t have to pay to clear it up.”
There was opposition from DWP west Wales who called for improved rights for Welsh speakers rather than international campaigns.
Dee Luxford also reluctantly recommended remission due to “a lack of specifics on the motion and cost”.
“However, it is right to show total solidarity with international workers. What happens there will eventually happen here,” said Dee.
Sharon Spinos from the Victoria and Albert museum added support to the motion telling delegates about the experiences of her family in Greece where a neighbour had shot himself due to the stress he was under and poverty.
“We stand together united to defend workers here and abroad” said Dave Bean, NEC. The motion was passed.
A67 called on the union to campaign for the removal of British troops from Afghanistan.
John Davison, HMRC East Kilbride, moved saying: “I am proud to be part of a union with an internationalist outlook,” said John. “The government will spend £4billion this year on the war in Afghanistan. It is time to bring the troops home.”
Gerry McMahan, DWP Glasgow, seconded saying: “Half the world lives on less than £2 a day. 18 million people a year die of extreme poverty. This horrific genocide is being carried out in our name.”
Richard de Lange, MoD, called for motion to be remitted or opposed, saying the immediate withdrawal of troops would be catastrophic for the Afghans and would strengthen the Taliban. Conference agreed to support the motion.
Conference bestowed distinguished life membership on two PCS members, Bonnie Soanes and Alistair Nicholson.
Bonnie has been a civil service union member for nearly 30 years when he began his career as a clerical officer in the Ministry of Defence.
He has held several union positions including standing orders committee, branch health and safety officer and treasurer.
“This is a very great honour and privilege from a great campaigning union.” He went on to add his support for our “united union which will win in the face of seemingly impossible odds. I have fought over the years the same fight you are now confronting.”
Alistair retired in 2008 after a union career spanning 38 years. “Alistair is warmly regarded by all who know him” said president Janice Godrich, who presented the awards.
“I only went to my first conference in 1974 as a stand-in delegate,” joked Alistair. “I am very proud to accept this award.”