PCS union subscriptions are increasing by 50p a month. The first payment will be taken from members’ accounts on 1 July (if paying by direct debit) or 28 June (if paying by check-off). This money will be used to build up a strike fund, raising over £1million every year which will be used to financially support PCS members who are taking strike action. This Q&A sets out some of the frequently asked questions and queries.
Q. Why are my subs going up by 50p a month?
At the PCS annual conference this year, it was democratically and overwhelmingly agreed that we need to build up a strike fund that would be used to support members financially who are taking strike action. The easiest, quickest and fairest way of doing this is by asking all members to contribute an additional 50p a month (or £6 a year) to the strike fund. This will raise nearly £100,000 a month, or over £1 million every year.
Q. How will the strike fund money be used?
The fund will be used to support members who are taking strike action and are therefore not being paid by their employer while they are on strike. Having a strike fund allows PCS to be able to compensate members for loss of earnings and therefore, where necessary, to enable members to take strike action for longer periods so that more pressure can be placed on the employer to resolve the dispute. If employers and the government know that we have a large reserve in our strike fund we have greater leverage in negotiations – our ability to be able to support striking members for long periods puts enormous pressure on employers to reach a deal.
Q. How would the strike fund be used as part of the national pay campaign?
Having a strike fund means that comparatively small numbers of members working in critical operational areas could be asked to action for longer periods to exert maximum pressure on the government and on employers. This is part of our union’s overall strategy to target specific areas that will most effectively force the employer to the negotiating table.
Q. Are there any examples of where the strike fund has been used to support members on strike?
We have already used the fund this year to pay strike pay to members in:
• HMRC International House Ealing
• DWP Walsall and Wolverhampton Service Centre
• Interserve FCO Contract.
The strike fund has been used to help win disputes at the National Museum Wales and the Historic Royal Palaces.
Can strike action work?
This year already just the threat of strike action by our members working as security officers in parliament was enough to make the employer meet their demands.
Having a sizeable strike fund also means that the employer will know that we have the ability to pay members for longer periods to be away from work. This puts pressure on employers to reach a settlement to avoid sustained industrial action.
Q. What if I don’t want to take strike action?
All members are consulted before any strike action is taken. Before any strike action takes place, every member is balloted and asked if they are prepared to take action. We additionally have to ensure that more than 50% of those members being balloted take part in the ballot if we are to take lawful action.
Q. Can the strike fund be used to support PCS members who are striking because of office closures or other very specific issues?
The strike fund can be used to support members who are taking action over very localised disputes, such as office closures or specific terms and conditions. The strike fund could make it possible for you to win the campaign that you need in your workplace.
Q. Which members might be asked to take action as part of the national pay campaign?
Part of the national pay campaign strategy is to identify members who undertake key operational roles, for instance in IT, security, transport, border control, finance or elsewhere that, if they were taken out of work would cause maximum disruption for the employer and therefore create maximum pressure on the government to reach a settlement.
Q. If we had a big strike fund would it make our negotiating position stronger?
The establishment of a large strike fund, potentially running to millions of pounds, would allow PCS to support groups of members to take strike action for long periods if necessary. Conversely, the government and employers know that the main reason why members sometimes feel they are unable to take strike action is because they cannot afford to be off work for long periods. If the government knows that we have the reserves to support striking members for longer periods then this will be a very persuasive lever in negotiations.
Q. Can I opt out of the strike fund?
Members cannot opt out of contributing to the strike fund. We are asking all members to contribute because all members will either benefit directly because you will be supported financially should you have to take action yourself; or because you will benefit indirectly by helping to win other disputes and thereby strengthening the Union’s negotiating position in general. We are therefore asking all members to make a small contribution (rather than a few members making a large contribution). We know money is very tight for most of our members, but that £6 a year can help us win even bigger pay rises for all PCS members.
Q. Subs have already been increased this year. Why are they increasing again?
Subs are increased annually, from 1 February, in line with cost of living. Any increase to subs is discussed and agreed annually by your national executive committee. This is usually a minimal increase to subs of a few pence a month. In February the subs went up by, on average, 14p a month depending on the subs banding members were in. This is an annual increase and is separate from the need to raise a substantial strike fund. The fact of the matter is we cannot for a further 6 months to start to increase strike funds. Asking members for 50p a month from July means we can raise over half a million pounds between now and January 2020. This in turn will allow us to support your colleagues and friends in other workplaces and departments who are taking action for better pay and conditions.
Q. How do PCS subs compare with subs in other unions?
The maximum subs rate for members will now be capped at £14.57 for members in the highest subs band. On average members in PCS pay £10.76 a month. These are the lowest subs rates for any union public sector union in the UK.
Q. What else do my subs pay for?
As a member of PCS you have protection and peace of mind at work in case you find you need representation and support. PCS members are also entitled to range of benefits and discounts which more than offset the cost of membership, including free membership of ‘Boundless’, normally £25 a year, which in turn entitles you to countless benefits on holidays, insurance, shopping and services. Being a PCS member means you are never on your own. Your subs mean you are part of the only organisation that collectivises issues in order to look after the interests of workers.
Q. Are there any members who are exempt from the increase?
The 50p increase does not apply to members who are in unrecognised workplaces and associate and retired members.