Socialist Worker

PCS members organise to defend union democracy and take on Tory attacks

Issue No. 2435

PCS is under attack from the Tories - but how should it respond?

PCS is under attack from the Tories - but how should it respond? (Pic: Duncan Brown)

The government has launched a sustained attack on civil service workers and their PCS union.

On top of cuts and privatisation, the Tories have threatened to withdraw the “check-off” system in much of the civil service.

Under this system union subscriptions are taken straight from workers’ wages with their agreement.

Now the union has to resign all members up to the union on a direct debit.

Pete, a PCS rep in Birmingham, told Socialist Worker, “In our job centre we have 75 percent of members switched to direct debit.

“The reps initiated this by taking a half day facility time and running a drop-in surgery. They also toured desks to sign people up.

“On that day we signed up half the members.

“Where reps stand up for members the union will be stronger, and the switch to direct debit will be easier.”

The union has been forced to cut costs.

The PCS national executive voted last month by 15 votes to three to suspend elections to the national and group executive committees.

Socialist Workers Party members voted against accepting a budget that includes suspension of elections. One other executive member joined them.

Motions are being put to branches calling on the executive to reverse the decision.

Socialist Worker supporters are also calling for a full consultation with branches and for as much financial information to be publicised as possible. 

Only by turning outwards, engaging in resistance with other unions and campaigns can workers beat the Tories’ attacks.

Strikes at DWP in Garston

Call centre workers at a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) office in Garston, Merseyside, struck for two days in a row over job losses last month.

They struck on 22 December and again on Friday of last week. 

The benefits enquiry staff, who are members of the PCS union, are fighting plans to close their office.

The DWP wants to shut the call centre down by May next year and move staff nine miles away to Bootle.

PCS rep Dave Owens said, “The move to Bootle is going to cause difficulty for people, particularly for those with child care or other caring responsibilities.”

Some 800 Department for Work and Pensions jobs have already gone in Merseyside in recent years, with eight offices closing.

National Gallery strikes halted

The PCS union suspended three planned strikes in the National Gallery after a legal challenge by bosses.

Workers had planned to walk out on 27 and 29 December, and on 3 January.

Union general secretary Mark Serwotka was set to address a branch meeting on Thursday of this week.

Activists are arguing to push for more than three strike days.

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