PCS had taken the unprecedented, and in my view correct, step to publicly declare support for the Labour party in England and Wales, recommending to our members in those countries that they should support Labour candidates; while running a Tories Out campaign among our members in Scotland.
This bold move was not because the national union wanted to affiliate to or “climb in to bed with" the Labour party, but because it was recognised that the manifesto on which they were standing was in the best interests of our members, and we knew the alternative was an extension of Tory rule and all that comes with it; threats to jobs, office closures, low pay and the continuation of a draconian benefits system that our members in DWP are expected to implement.
While the decision taken was a national one, your group executive committee overwhelmingly endorsed this position, as being in the best interests of our members within this department.
Well the result many of us had hoped for has not materialised at the ballot box, and while we cannot know for certain what the coming months and years hold in store for us in DWP, we can be sure that having a strong, well-organised union, with a determined leadership and an active membership has never been more important.
On the day the GE was held we discovered that Mark Serwotka had been re-elected as our general secretary. Mark has been an outstanding union leader for us over the past two decades and has been a continuous support to this group, its activists and members throughout his tenure. I would like to extend my congratulations to Mark on his success and I look forward to working with him for the rest of our electoral year, and hopefully beyond.
Members in DWP have been at the forefront of experiencing government policy over the last 10 years, from both sides of the desk, and will understand that the programme already started by the government in terms of public spending and office closures will now probably continue. Added to this the early breaking news that the prime minister intends to review and “radically” overhaul the civil service, will increase the anxiety many face.
Our union has a proud and proven track record of standing up for the rights of our members and campaigning to defend jobs, your workplaces and members pay. It is also true though that more needs to be done. That’s why the October GEC set out, and unanimously agreed, a detailed campaign strategy for our group covering all of these important issues. A more detailed article can be found in this addition covering the plan, but I would urge all of you to get active in your branches, engage with your local representatives and feed in to the campaign activity we will be setting out in the coming weeks and months. You can start by speaking to those DWP staff you know are not members of the union and urge them to join you by joining PCS. The reality of the GE result is that we will need to be organised and ready to support each other, and that is best achieved when our union membership is strong and active in the workplace.
Finally, may I take this opportunity to send my very best wishes to all our members for the festive season, however you spend it, and I look forward to working with you to try and ensure we all have a Happy New Year.