15 July 2021

GS: Covid hasn’t gone away and neither has our fighting spirit

Mark Serwotka thanks our activists for their brilliant work in recent months.

Covid restrictions have been lifted across England, and there are many challenging areas facing our members. It’s thanks to the hard work and dedication of our activists that employers are constantly reminded that the health and safety of their staff should be their number one priority. 

I want to say a huge thank you to our brilliant activists in DVLA. This is one of the most important disputes this union has ever been involved in and the role of our members and activists has been vital.  Despite the unique challenges brought about by the pandemic, our fantastic activists have worked tirelessly to organise members in a dispute that is being talked about up and down the country.

It’s worth remembering that this brilliant work on the ground was done in the context of unprecedented covid conditions at the head office in Swansea, which was home to the worst workplace outbreak in the UK. When we heard reports of workers being told to turn off their track and trace as the employer insisted on going ahead with reckless plans to bring thousands of workers back on-site, our activists sprang into action to mobilise members. 

Members have now been on strike since April and, thanks to sustained industrial action and campaigning, pressure is continuing to build and it’s having an impact. Backlogs are growing and the pressure is increasing for government ministers, too. Astonishingly, the deal that had been negotiated and agreed by our negotiating team and management was pulled at the eleventh hour. I’m led to believe this unprecedented action was carried out by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

This deeply insulting and provocative move is an insult to not just those who negotiated the deal, but everyone involved in the dispute, not least our activists on the frontline. Grant Shapps’ reckless actions have only made everyone involved with PCS more determined than ever to succeed. 

Will to win is spreading

One of the most encouraging things that has come out of this dispute is the hugely positive impact it’s had on membership growth and engagement. The DVLA branch is now the largest in the union and it shows how campaigning can increase PCS presence in workplaces. 

Another great example of where we’ve gone from strength to strength is our outsourced members working in the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department. Members employed there by contractor ISS have just held three days of action, demanding an end to low pay, improved working conditions and extra bonuses for working through lockdown.

Thanks to your hard work, we’ve had some fantastic victories for our outsourced members in the past and this determination and will to win is spreading to members in other government departments. Membership continues to grow in these areas and with everyone pulling in the right direction, we’re all determined to bring an end to the scourge of outsourcing in the civil service. 

What these disputes and many others show us is that even in the most challenging of circumstances, our activists remain more resolute than ever. Covid hasn’t gone away and neither has the fighting spirit we’ve come to expect from our dedicated activists.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary