14 February 2022

The power in a union

Vijay's blog for Heart Unions Week explains why he's voting YES in the national ballot and backing our campaign on pay. 

Energy bills are soaring and rents continue to rise, but our pay has remained stagnant over the pandemic; pay which was already greatly diminished in value after years of the public sector pay cap. A below-inflation pay 'rise' is simply a pay cut by stealth. That's why we're campaigning for no member to be left behind, and for a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. This Heart Unions Week, as our national consultative ballot opens, remember that as PCS members, our strength – the strength of the labour movement – lies in each other, in our solidarity, and in our ability to take action.

Ultimately, we want a return to national bargaining, negotiating better pay deals across the whole civil service instead of each department individually. It isn’t fair that members in some departments are paid less than others for doing the same work at each grade. The first step would be for departments like the DWP to 'level up' pay by having a single rate for each grade, at the top of the current bands. For example, in DWP at AO national that’s £23,139 and at EO national that’s £30,966. The next step is a 10% pay award on top of that, which would take us up to £25,425 at AO national and £34,062 at EO national.

This goes along with our other demands, such as a minimum real living wage of £15/hr equivalent, an improved London cost-of-living weighting, a minimum of 35 days annual leave, and a shorter working week without loss of pay. In trials abroad, a shorter working week has been hugely successful. And we can show how well it would work here, in the civil service.

There are many other issues we need to campaign on, like permanent contracts for all Fixed Term Appointment staff, and proper safety measures for frontline roles – the pandemic isn't over yet! I was on an FTA contract until very recently, which is why I had to apply for other jobs in the DWP. As a work coach, I didn’t have any certainty about my future. I didn’t have the job security I deserved after working through the pandemic – and neither do thousands of fellow PCS members. We need to be prepared to strike. Let's stick together, have each other’s backs, and show our strength in numbers.

If we can get a really good result in the consultative ballot, it will show we mean business. So vote yes yourself and tell every member you know to vote yes as well. Every volunteer who gets involved and helps mobilise for the ballot will increase our chances of success. You could arrange a car park meeting, you could hand out leaflets, or you could register on CallHub for phonebanking*. We are the union – and we can win.

Each and every member who votes yes in the ballot is putting pressure on the employer, which means that not only are we more likely to win our demands, it also means we are less likely to need to take industrial action in the first place. As the saying goes: the longer the picket line, the shorter the strike!

*contact your local rep or organising@pcs.org.uk for more details