Why we’ve been taking strike action at the EHRC

19 May 2017

PCS EHRC Glasgow branch members told us why they have taken strike action this week and what they hope to achieve for the future.

The week began with torrential rain and ended in glorious sunshine. Let's hope this is an omen for the current dispute.

Before this week, Glasgow members took the decision that we'd support the 4 week rolling action wholly. This collective response saw all members supportive of the action, knowing that it gives us the best chance of securing a positive outcome to the dispute.

What needs to happen

The members feel that the escalation is necessary - not just to support our friends and colleagues serving their redundancy notice, but also to secure an improvement in working conditions moving forward. We are clear on what is required to end the dispute:

  • a lifting of the office ban [the eight sacked members are banned from entering their offices.]
  • concerted effort from EHRC to appoint our members to one of the 40+ vacancies the employer has in the pipeline, through a robust process without prejudice
  • effective support to find alternative employment elsewhere in the civil service if there are no suitable alternatives at the Commission.

What management is currently giving our members:

  • an office ban
  • no meaningful consideration to appoint our members to internal vacancies (even with training), despite none of them having had any concerns raised previously about their performance. The Executive Leadership Team has arbitrarily decided these colleagues do not have the right skills and has also undermined the redeployment process by making unsubstantiated allegations about our members, threatening dismissal without due process
  • no support to find alternative suitable employment. No EHRC redeployment manager has been in contact with our members since February 2017.

Non co-operation

Such is the severity of the situation that both PCS Scotland and the STUC have notified EHRC that they are adopting a position of non co-operation with EHRC, and have written to stakeholders to suggest they consider adopting a similar approach until the dispute is settled. This undermines the Commission’s ability to deliver on its work programme, and is indicative of the damage done to the Commission’s reputation by management’s intransigence. It is unacceptable that a body set up to promote and protect people’s rights should treat its own staff this way, and lower the bar below what is accepted as normal practice across the civil service. This situation could easily be resolved by EHRC management if they would only agree to the reasonable requests above - it is their gift to give.

PCS Scotland also sent a delegation to meet with Scottish government officials to outline the treatment of staff and the threat posed to the Commission’s ability to deliver on its core remit in Scotland moving forward.

Back to the industrial action in Glasgow...

The picket line was well supported every day this week, with supporters from a spectrum of backgrounds out in support. Individuals, supporters from the trade union movement and stakeholder organisations, prospective MPs, MSPs and recently elected councillors all came out to support members and enjoy the atmosphere of camaraderie created by PCS members and officials in difficult circumstances. The message was clear - no one could stand by and watch as workers are treated so appallingly. Everyone wanted to know what they could do to support our members.

Overwhelming support

Highlight of the week was Thursday, when large delegations from GMB, STUC, RMT, Unite, EIS, Disabled People Against Cuts, as well as many other supporters, surged to the picket line to convey their solidarity. Our members were overwhelmed by this support - even if one or two of them may have been a little 'delicate' due to the excellent Strike Fund Gig by the Dirty Hepburns the night before!

Glasgow members and reps have had a busy week: out every afternoon and evening speaking at meetings of other branches and organisations, mobilising support for the action and growing the strike fund significantly.

The benefits of the choice to go with the four week rolling action have become apparent to members in Glasgow - it gives us longer to lever support and influence, both politically and amongst stakeholders, and many more meetings are pencilled in for the next few weeks. It also gives us longer to grow our strike fund, so that we can effectively mitigate against distress to our most vulnerable and poorly paid members. Donations have been streaming in. One branch alone - Unite Not For Profit Branch Scotland - have now made donations totalling £2000 to our strike fund. Equality and human rights are obviously causes that many hold dear, and that is why support for the Glasgow action was so strong.

We also had loads of kids and dogs on the picket line throughout the week, providing welcome respite from the seriousness of the situation. The three days of glorious sunshine from Wednesday onwards also helped consolidate the feeling of solidarity.

All members in Glasgow are committed to supporting our colleagues in our other offices over the next three weeks, and hope our efforts this week provide even just a little inspiration for friends and colleagues elsewhere. We also hope to send a minibus of members and supporters to the last day of action in Manchester, should the dispute not be settled by then.

The week was hard going with lots of work being done beyond just picketing. We're all knackered now, but some of us have another event to attend tonight, when we are guests of honour at the GMB APEX social night - another opportunity to grow the fighting fund. The power of the collective meant that our week of action was only ever going to be a roaring success. We wish our friends and colleagues elsewhere well as the baton now passes to our London office. 

Best wishes and solidarity to all!

PCS EHRC Glasgow members

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