24 May 2022

PCS president: ‘We have the collective power to do so much’

PCS is well placed to fight back against the many issues facing members – from the cost-of-living crisis, to attacks on members’ pay, pensions and conditions, to the UK’s “nasty right-wing” government – said national president Fran Heathcote

While the union’s recent consultative ballot on pay had not met the “undemocratic” 50% turnout threshold, the 45% achieved was a “brilliant platform” from which to move forward with a statutory ballot for industrial action, she said. The key to winning an industrial action ballot is organised workplaces, she said, by having actions plans in every branch, recruiting new members and encouraging more activity in the union.

In her opening address, Fran said it was the most significant conference for many years. She thanked reps for their work, as well as the outgoing NEC, and general secretary Mark Serwotka. Mark had ensured PCS’s voice was heard throughout the Covid pandemic, despite being in the extremely vulnerable category himself, said Fran.

Citing the DVLA dispute as a prime example of PCS’s work in prioritising members’ health and safety throughout the covid crisis, delegates applauded when Fran praised their effort and determination.

She said PCS has adapted well to the changes the pandemic has brought – also demonstrated by the fact that 60 delegates were virtually attending this first physical/hybrid conference since 2019.  

Fran went on to pay tribute to the active and “impressive” members in the union’s private sector, including those who had had successful disputes over the last year in Royal Parks and BEIS.

In recent months PCS had also shown its unstinting solidarity with refugees, in relation to the war in Ukraine, as well as in its successful legal action against the Home Office’s so-called ‘pushback’ policy in the English Channel. The union would tackle the government’s plan to send people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda with the same determination, said Fran.

“We have a nasty right-wing government led by a man that many used to call a buffoon, and saw as a figure who was good for a laugh, but now who's exposed as a lying, dangerous, reckless, warmongering, elitist politician. But we shouldn't feel powerless in the face of these issues. We have the collective power to do so much. The decisions we take at this conference really will make a difference,” she said.