PCS at STUC Youth Conference

STUC Youth conference

The annual STUC Youth conference took place from 2-3 July 2016 at the Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel in Clydebank.

PCS was represented by two delegates - Sarah Spencer (DWP) and Rebecca Barr (MOJ).

We submitted three motions to conference - Young Workers & Pay, HMRC Office Closures, and the V&A Dundee. All were passed unopposed.

Our delegates also spoke on a series of other motions including Mental Health, Trident Renewal and Apprenticeships.

Sarah Spencer, Chair of our Young Members Committee and member of STUC Youth Committee, was tasked with facilitating a workshop on Organising Models, which gave delegates the opportunity to learn from other unions and share best practice. Sarah also led a session on the removal of check-off and shared the TUC Youth Forum report with Conference.

Sarah was also announced as this year's recipient of the 2016 Jimmy Waugh Memorial Shield for Outstanding Young Trade Unionist of the Year.

Rebecca Barr was a first time delegate at conference and has written a blog about her experience which you can read here.

Here are transcripts of Rebecca & Sarah's speeches to conference:

Young Workers & Pay - Rebecca Barr

Mental Health & Young People - Rebecca Barr

Support for Construction Apprentices - Rebecca Barr

Trident - Rebecca Barr

V & A Dundee - Sarah Spencer

HMRC Office Closures  - Sarah Spencer


 

Young Workers & Pay - Rebecca Barr

I was 25 on my last birthday. It was an unusual experience. I woke up and went to work as normal, but I found that overnight, something has changed meaning my work output had increased. I was suddenly, at 25, so much more productive than I had been in my previous 9 years of working. Of much more value to my employer.

Doesn’t sound quite right does it? Well, it appears that that is what the government thinks.

This is the only explanation I can think of when trying to rationalise paying a young worker less than that of some of their colleagues for doing the same job.

Younger workers disproportionately work in retail, hospitality and other low-paying sectors - areas commonly paying the bare minimum to employees - potentially be due to profit driven private companies awareness that recruitment of young employees is financially advantageous. They can be exploited far easier and seem encouraged to do so as they can legally pay young workers less. I would suggest that the removal of age disparity within rates of pay would lead to a fairer labour market and recruitment, and assist in opening up the job pool to young workers.

After all, young workers still have to pay the same amount as those over 25 for the same goods and services. Food and housing remains the same, there is no ‘under 25 discount’. The struggle young people face with recruitment and fair pay is a contributing factor in the increasing number of young people having to deal with homelessness.

Legally, employers must give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract if they are employed to do the same job. I fail to see why gender discrimination is not acceptable; however age discrimination is, in relating to young workers.

The age disparity within rates of pay suggests that young workers are not as valued, respected or as important as their colleagues, who have reached an arbitrary, seemingly randomly selected age - apparently due to reasons such as, lack of experience. And do these employees complete fewer duties due to their lack of experience? No. Are they left with only the basic tasks as they cannot handle the more taxing duties? No. They do the exact same job and get paid less.

The Living Wage has been calculated at £8.25 an hour, which is the level of pay that would give workers the basic standard of living. Minimum wage for workers 25 and above is below this, and even less with every age bracket under this. This says to me that the government does not believe that workers deserve the basic standard of living, and young workers even less so.

I would argue that workers not only deserve the Living Wage, but they deserve more than just the basic standard of living, deserve more than just surviving, and suggest that a minimum wage of £10 should be implemented now to provide workers with a satisfactory wage and a satisfactory standard of living.

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Mental Health & Young People - Rebecca Barr

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year

1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.

9 out of 10 people with mental health problems will experience stigma and discrimination.

I found these statistics on the website of "Time to Change", a campaign run by MIND and Rethink Mental Health to end the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health problems face.

As someone who has experienced mental health issues themselves, these figure shocked me. The stigma around discussing mental health issues out in the open is such that many people refuse to tell even those closest to them that they are experiencing problems. And that is something that has always confused me. I have never heard of anyone ashamed to admit they have asthma, scared to disclose they have the cold in case their friends look at them differently, worried that they will be treated unfavourably if they tell their manager they have diabetes. And yet still in 2016, there is a stigma around admitting you have or have had a mental health problem. This lack of open and frank discussion leads to misunderstanding and fear.

This is further reinforced by the negative stereotypes and stigma that those have experienced mental health problems have to endure on a daily basis. Many depictions in the media and society seem to imply, or on some occasions outright state, that those with mental health conditions are dangerous and impulsive, a threat to themselves and others, incapable of holding down a job or being a productive member of society. This stigma can cause those affected to be reluctant to seek help when required for fear that, what statistics prove is a very normal thing, will affect their lives negatively in some way. This has to change.

The term mental health covers a wide range of signs, symptoms and conditions; some requiring intervention, some not. There are many factors that could affect the mental health of a young person, and we need to ensure that the correct support is available when required in order to promote good mental health.

Thankfully, more and more it appears that awareness is improving and I believe that we should fully support any campaigns designed to support workers with mental health issues.

This is even more important as many departmental attendance management policies now have trigger points and this can affect those with mental health problems who have perhaps had a period of absence due to their condition. Long standing mental health problems is considered to be a disability and employers are required to make reasonable adjustments as per the Equality Act 2010 - this includes the application of any attendance management policies - people with mental health problems require support and assistance - not be punished for their condition.

In November, PCS ran a very valuable event in HMRC Longbenton on Mental Health in the workplace and provided information on the mental health advocacy role they have within the department. Recently, the MOJ have signed the Time To Change pledge, committing the department to tackling stigma and discrimination. Things are moving in the right direction, but there is always more that could be done.

As union representatives, we will often be dealing with members who are suffering from mental health issues and so we need to ensure we have proper training to fully support our members.

Mental Health issues are something that affect everyone in one way or another, at some point in their lives, and I believe we should do all we can to create a more inclusive and discrimination free environment.

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Support for Construction Apprenticeships - Rebecca Barr

The UK Civil Service has a target to recruit 7600 apprentices this year, and want apprentices to make up 2.3% of the overall workforce by 2019. PCS has welcomed the recruitment of a large number of young people to the civil service, and there is a fairly progressive programme of training and support in place for some apprentices. The programme has encouraged many young people from different socio-economic backgrounds to join the civil service. Apprenticeships clearly are an important part of our job market and offer essential training and opportunities for young working class people.

 

However, I am not here to give the UK Government a pat on the back. Employers such as the UK Land Registry and the UK Border Force are using apprentices to undermine our collective bargaining agreements, and indeed are using apprentices to do work which was previously carried out by permanent members of staff...staff who were paid more and had better terms and conditions. The workers who held these roles were made redundant as part of the Tory Government’s austerity agenda. On one hand they are making hundreds of thousands of hard working, dedicated civil servants redundant and on the other they are employing young people on the cheap to do the same work.

 

The UK Civil Service currently employs 250 Surge Apprentices, with the aim to double this figure over the next year. These roles have been advertised, as you might assume, to cope with surges in activity across the business. However, in reality, they are used to plug gaps caused by massive job cuts. A large number of these apprentices have caring responsibilities, including many single parents, and they have been asked to move to another area on a Friday and be expected to get there, at their own expense, for Monday morning. Many assignments have lasted over 3 months. Young people on very low wages have been asked to move to London for months at a time. Apprentices are put up in hotels and moved about on a weekly basis as and when HMRC finds cheaper rooms. No provision has been made for their emotional and social wellbeing, and there is not even a concrete guarantee of a job at the end of it. As I stated, we welcome more opportunities for young people, but the trade union movement needs to continue to fight to ensure that they are treated with dignity, respect and fairness and not just used as cheap labour.

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Trident - Rebecca Barr

Every penny - and possibly more - saved from replacing Trident will have to be reinvested in creating opportunities for defence workers. This will necessarily involve a degree of intervention not witnessed for decades; this intervention will involved direct investments in emerging sectors and technologies. It will require directing investments to the areas that require them. Let's be clear - the market alone will not deliver any transition, let alone one that is Just.

It simply isn't justifiable to support spending £170bn on weapons of mass destruction at a time when schools, hospitals and care homes are under-funded. Yes, designing a credible and effective transition programme for Trident workers will be tremendously challenging, but this is a challenge that the Scottish trade union movement cannot and will not shirk.

Spending billions on nuclear weapons is now and always has been incompatible with the aims and objectives of the Scottish trade union movement. The movement will not shirk from the responsibilities implicit in this principled opposition. Cancelling Trident and implementing a detailed programme of fair and just industrial transition will stand testament to all that is good about the Scottish trade unions movement.

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V & A Dundee - Sarah Spencer

PCS members in the Culture Sector group work in museums such as the National Museum Scotland, National Museum Liverpool and the National Galleries in London. So when it was announced that the new V&A Museum was opening in Dundee, it was presumed that it would become a civil service building. Unfortunately, it does not look like this will be the case.

Substantive V&A staff have salaries negotiated by their unions, access to the civil service pension scheme, paid sick leave and should they be dismissed, compensation through the CSCS, which while reduced in recent years by successive governments as part of an attack on our terms and conditions, still offers a cushion better than the statutory minimum.

the staff employed through a third or fourth party will not have access to any of this, and so the benefits of the creation of the V&A in Dundee will flow upwards, creating profits for the already wealthy, while low paid service jobs proliferate. Most of these workers are likely to be young workers, facing terrible contracts and terrible pay.

These staff will also be refused TU recognition for the first year. PCS needs the backing of the STUC to ensure the V&A becomes part of the civil service.


HMRC Office Closures  - Sarah Spencer

Conference, on the 12th November last year HMRC delivered location strategy announcements informing staff that it would reduce its number of offices across the UK from 170 down to 13, with staffing levels expected to reduce by 20%.

In 2015, there was a £34billion tax gap, and with HMRC now faced with the prospect of losing thousands of its trained tax advisors this gap will only increase.

These announcements have been followed by a period of extreme uncertainty for workers right across HMRC. Whilst these plans cause severe upheaval for most workers as they are expected to move to a regional centre with a significant increase in daily travel, for young workers the effect of these announcements will undoubtedly cause massive issues.

Many of our young members across HMRC have childcare responsibilities and therefore work part time to cater to the needs of their children and families.

The expectation that these workers can spend up to an hour travelling each way to work on a daily basis is without doubt problematic with issues around the ability to work their current working hours and therefore face the reality of having to reduce these hours and suffer a cut in pay. The only alternative is to take redundancy, which for young workers in HMRC means leaving employment with a package worth next to thing because of limited years of service.

The increased recruitment of workers on apprenticeships throughout HMRC also highlights the detrimental financial impact that the office closures will have on young workers.

DWP also have an on-going people and locations programme with similar office closures expected to be announced over the next few months.

PCS is calling on all unions to stand with us in the political and industrial campaign to halt office closures.

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