We can be proud that PCS is one of the most democratic unions in the UK, with annual elections and conferences where members can choose their representatives and the policies they want the union to follow.
We know we are stronger when our representative structures reflect the diversity of our membership and when members from equality groups are participating fully in the life of the union. We will be more able to reach our bargaining objectives with employers on equality and other issues.
ADC 2018 carried motion A44 which instructed the NEC to conduct a widespread consultation on the proposal that rule changes are made that ensure that at least 50% of the ordinary NEC seats are filled by women candidates. PCS is a union with 60% women members but our democratic structures do not fully reflect this fact.
The motion also called for work to be stepped up to remove barriers to the participation of women in the activities of the union at workplace, branch and group levels and to include this work in the consultation.
Please read this paper and answer the questions at the end.
Part of the employers’ offensive in recent years has been an attempt to cut our representatives off from the members by reducing facility time. PCS is much more successful than many unions in this respect, but we are a campaigning trade union and we need high, and increasing, levels of active participation by members and reps.
In these circumstances we are working to ensure that all sections of the membership are participating in the union. We want to improve the representation and participation of equality groups. Our union has a diverse membership and PCS has always taken a principled and active stance on matters of equality.
ADC 2018 decided to extend the system of equality-based reservations for NEC elections to include disabled members, LGBT members and young members. Prior to ADC 2018, the two highest polling Black candidates were elected but such a system did not apply to the other equality areas.
We adhered to the important principle that all members can vote for all NEC candidates annually - all NEC members should be accountable to all members. We did not adopt a system of allocated seats with separate constituencies which exists in some other unions. Instead we extended the policy of electing the highest polling candidates from equality groups. This would prevent the membership being divided into specific equality sectors, an objection held by many members and reps, and would maintain all member voting, while addressing equality and adding diversity.
While 60% of PCS members are women, only 45% of workplace reps, 31% of GEC members, and 32% of ADC delegates are women. A gap between the proportion of women members and the proportion of women reps exists in all PCS Groups.
The NEC has 33% women, 10 out of 30 members. The senior lay officers buck the trend with 4 out 5 women.
If women were to be elected to the NEC in proportion to their membership today there would be 18 on the NEC, rather than the current 10.
An important part of our work is to remove the barriers that exist to women getting involved in the life of the union. We are considering specific recruitment campaigns, mentoring and automatic recruitment of new members into equality networks. We have increased our resources on regional equality work by creating Equality Advocates in all our regions and nations and developing opportunities for overarching events to bring equality groups together. The National Women’s Forum are looking at developing a guide for branches to encourage Branch Women's Advisory Committees (BWACs) in the coming year.
Social Media is increasingly useful to disseminate information. Investing in, and extending use of, Skype and video links has already increased engagement with our National Women’s Forum. The use of significant dates and history months has increased visibility through posters and leaflets. Sexual Harassment training, menopause awareness and the WASPI campaign are key issues for the NWF.
Representation of women on the NEC
As well as working to remove barriers and encourage women’s participation, we believe that specific measures to improve the representation of women on our structures are needed. Such specific measures, such as rule changes, would complement and reinforce work to build participation at the workplace, and support our organising efforts.
We need to do both: remove barriers to participation and also have women’s representation on our NEC enshrined in rule.
A proposed rule could be placed before ADC 2019 which would ensure that at least 50% of the seats for ordinary members of the NEC would be filled by women, whilst preserving the principle that NEC members would be elected by all members of the union.
Formal rules to ensure representation are necessary because PCS does not exist in isolation. We live in a society where there are a myriad of pressures on women which work against their active participation in union positions, particularly in a more hostile external climate to trade unions and to women’s equality.
We must campaign and fight against discrimination and for change in society, and within our own ranks we must put in place the means by which women can be fully represented in our structures.
In doing so, we will reinforce our organising work to encourage women and all equality groups to play a full role in the life of the union.
QUESTION 1: What measures do you think would work best to remove barriers for women to participate and stand for election in the union?
QUESTION 2: do you support the proposal that rule changes should be made that ensure that at least 50% of the ordinary NEC seats are filled by women candidates?
Please send your responses by Friday 1 February 2019 using the online form. Or in writing to: General Secretary, PCS, 160 Falcon Road, London SW11 2LN.
Appendix: Motion A44
Conference notes that our union has a diverse membership and believes that PCS must continue to take a principled and active stance on matters of equality and inclusion.
Conference notes that, while 60% of PCS members are women, 44% of workplace reps, 41% of BEC members, 36% of GEC officers, 33% of ADC delegates and 39% of ordinary NEC members are women.
Conference notes that improving the representation of women in our structures would form an important part of the process of making PCS become a stronger, more representative and democratic union. Increased participation and representation of women, alongside other equality groups, is an important part of our focus on collective workplace strength, particularly in an external climate more hostile to trade unions, including the reduction in facility time, and to gender equality.
Conference notes the work underway on a range of issues about awareness, training, confidence building, concerns about the timings and locations of meetings, better more targeted communications and on-line networking with the aim that our activist structures become representative of the diversity of our membership, including women. Conference believes that this ‘bottom up’ approach to equality and inclusion assists our organising objective of increasing our workplace strength.
Conference further believes that, whilst not a panacea, specific measures to improve the representation of women in our structures would complement and reinforce work to build participation at the workplace, sending the correct signals to all parts of the union and encouraging our organising efforts. Conference confirms that any measures taken must preserve the principle of all members voting for all NEC members.
Conference instructs the NEC to:
3. Conduct a widespread consultation, including with branches and encouraging women at all levels of the union to respond, on the proposal that rule changes are made that ensure that at least 50% of the ordinary NEC seats are filled by women candidates.
4. Step up its work to remove barriers to the participation of women in the activities of the union at workplace, branch and group levels in line with the union’s equality and inclusion strategy and include this work in the consultation.