PCS Advocates needed now more than ever
In this critical pay ballot period, the union’s ‘army of advocates’ is more important than ever, to help share the load and get the vote out. Reps and existing advocates can be using this time of activity to identify potential recruits and persuade them to get more involved. PCS aims to have 10,000 Advocates by 2020, and 58 new recruits have signed up since the end of May.
Bridget Corcoran, vice-chair of the newly formed DWP Tyneside and Northumbria branch and BEC regional equality officer, has recently recruited more than 20 Advocates, many of whom are women. What’s her secret?
“I’ve been a rep since I started in the civil service seven years ago. It was my first meaningfully organised workplace.
I get that little instinct for a potential rep, for spotting someone who fights for fairness. It’s quite easy to recruit, in a way, if you asking the right questions.
When you represent people a lot on personal cases, you have a large amount of contact with the members. You also have those members that will ask you questions. It’s not difficult to then say to them ‘you ask a lot of questions, you seem really interested, would you like to formalise your role?’
Recently I represented someone who was very interested in policy and pursued this in their voluntary work. While representing her, she demonstrated a capacity to research policy, and a determination that it should be applied. She was a natural fit to be a rep and is keenly throwing herself into everything at the moment.
“Advocates have been helping us with raising the profile of this hugely important ballot by talking to members and leafleting the site. We aim to use them to verify the levels of voting across our branch.”
I have recruited a lot of women. We just got another five reps recently, and they are all women.
Three of them had come to us after a briefing came out about ‘assumed consent’ (a change to our terms and conditions around flexi-time) which was reinforcing what members’ rights are. They saw the union was supporting them and so they came and signed up.
The other two women were black members who said they wanted to get involved in the black members committee at regional level. They had been encouraged by a great PCS Advocate we’ve got.
Being an advocate is a really valuable contribution to the branch, a really useful staging post for members who’ve got a problem, and a great source of intelligence about what’s happening on the ground.
They can be really crucial during, for example, negotiations going on about staff hours. If management assert something, we can ask the advocates ‘is this what’s really happening?’. They can gather evidence, locate where the problems are and tell us, then we can go back to management and say ‘sorry, what you’re telling us is not actually happening on the ground’.
Whenever the union campaigns we always attract more members, reps and advocates. I fully expect the pay ballot to attract non-members and engage existing members in the various ways they can support their union.
Advocates have been helping us with raising the profile of this hugely important ballot by talking to members and leafleting the site. We aim to use them to verify the levels of voting across our branch.
Overall the Advocates scheme really helps with our connection with the members. It’s a role that we can all develop as a branch. We take the skills and time that people have got, and it can be as much or as little as they want. It’s a way to make sure people with less time have as much value.
It’s great when they draw our attention to something that’s happening, and then see us going in and doing something about it.
After all, we do all this because we get outcomes for people. I think sometimes people can forget that.”
Updated 11 February 2019