Unions need to work together to keep society safe

14 Sep 2020

PCS will work with other unions to help keep everyone in society safe and hold to account the government, whose handling of the coronavirus crisis has contributed to thousands of deaths, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka told TUC Congress.

Speaking in the first debate of this year’s congress this morning (14) - Safety first – working people on the frontline of coronavirus, Mark paid tribute to PCS members who have:

  • Delivered the job retention scheme
  • Dealt with more than with 2.6 million claims to Universal Credit
  • Kept our road and transport network open
  • Kept our borders open and secure
  • Kept our justice system running
  • Kept our prisons running.

“Our members have shown what this country needs – dedication to deliver public services,” he said. “We have been successful in keeping the overwhelming bulk of our members safe and able to deliver essential services. Contrast that to the actions of this government that have contributed to thousands of deaths that could have been avoided.  

"There must be a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. We must never forget what the government has done and its awful political decisions.”

Opposing attempts to force staff into workplaces

Mark expressed concern that the government was now prioritising care for the economy over care for its own workers by demanding 80% off staff in the civil service return to workplaces by the end of the month when it’s clearly unsafe to do so in many cases.

"It is irresponsible to force people back to work when it is not safe, when the R rate is rising and incidents of local lockdown are increasing,” he said.

This week we are emailing a survey to our members to hear their views on:

  •          How strongly they would oppose any forced return to workplaces
  •          Whether they would support action to stop a forced return to workplaces.

Mark contrasted the approach of the UK government with that of the Scottish Government which has said its workers will not return to workplaces until the new year.

Mark concluded by calling on unions to work together and coordinate their campaigns to “keep everyone safe and no one is put at risk by the actions of this government.”

Matt Wrack from the FBU echoed this by saying that over the coming months it will be down to unions to defend our communities once more.

Liz Snape from Unison opened the debate on behalf of the TUC general council and said that the coronavirus has, like never before, brought into sharp focus the vital role unions play. She thanked all health and safety reps for the crucial role they play in making workplaces safe.

“Health and safety reps are more critical than ever,” she said.

She accused the government of failing to take the action needed to keep workers safe and the “litany of government failures has exacerbated the crisis, with the lowest paid, the vulnerable and the poor paying the highest price.”

Dave McCrossen from Usdaw highlighted how shop workers had faced unprecedented levels of abuse during lockdown. He described how his union was campaigning for a new deal for workers because: “Too many key workers are trying to exist on low pay, facing abuse every day while trying to carry out their essential role.”

If you are a PCS member and need help contact your PCS rep or our coronavirus response team.

Find out more about PCS activities at Congress 2020. #TUC2020

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