Jane Aitchison used to be not only a member of the Socialist Party, but also DWP Group President. That is until she had the temerity to think for herself. A dispute erupted over the direction of the unions campaigning over a year ago which led to her quitting the SP and then being purged as Group President by the John McInally led Socialist Party Grandees, albeit after two attempts.
Jane has been replaced by the more loyalist Socialist Party puppet, Fran Heathcote. The DWP Group is the largest section of PCS with over 74,000 members and is central to the Grandees control of the union as a whole. The purge of Jane (and her partner Rob Williams who was a member of the PCS National Executive Committee) is a salutary lesson in how the Leninists operate within the unions. Always the party's interests are put before the members.
Although I supported her moderate opponent in the election, it'd be preferable to have someone in post that is capable of thinking for themselves rather than a party hack taking orders from the "Central Committee" of the Socialist Party who haven't been near a workplace in decades.
Now to Jane's e-mail
Fight managements refusal to grant facility time for conference delegates in DWP
Dear Steve and Fran,
I am writing on behalf of the Leeds DWP Branch in response to DWP BB/025/13 – your lengthy and comprehensive yet shockingly defeatist response to DWP management’s unreasonable refusal to allow facility time for delegates to attend PCS conference which you have not even discussed at a GEC. We are writing to ask that you do now discuss this at the next GEC. We cannot believe they will all want to take the approach you suggest.
It is disgraceful that management have refused to allow delegates facility time to go to represent members at conference and seem to be getting away with it. They have not done this in the majority of departments yet in DWP they are effectively enforcing a four day cut in annual leave on hundreds of DWP Reps and threatening the democratic structures of PCS.
The circular adds insult to injury by telling us that management are allowing the GEC and NEC facility time to attend and that in order to protect some alleged legal stake you are allowing them to divide and rule and accepting it. Please tell us what is being protected by GEC members using facility time for conference while delegates are not allowed to?
You were warned by our Region at the meeting the GEC called last June for regional secretaries and chairs that by allowing management to award the facility time allocation without top slicing time for conference you risked this very situation developing.
In the circular you state:
Any unreasonable refusal of annual leave or flexi leave to attend conference should be challenged immediately by branches through the normal grievance process. Please also inform the GEC of any refusal of annual leave or flexi leave immediately so that we can consider raising any general concerns centrally.
If branch delegates do not have sufficient leave to attend conference then branches should consider urgently holding new elections for delegates.
The best response to management is to make sure that every DWP branch is represented at conference.
The best response to management is to stand up to them collectively and fight every cut.
You are effectively allowing the democratic will of members over who should represent them to be subverted and potentially letting management choose who represents members at conference – and leaving reps to fight this alone.
On finding out from the GEC in November that 43 compulsory redundancy notices had been issued and yet you had not even called a GEC to discuss the matter. This branch had to write to the Group to demand that you call a GEC and ballot members to protect those 43. You did that, members responded magnificently and action got results.
Once again we have to ask you to stand up for DWP reps and members. We are asking you to:
1) Write back to management in the strongest terms requesting further urgent talks on this matter. Suggest to management that if GEC and NEC members can use TUA then delegates could also. We ask you to continue seeking to change managements mind until the day of conference itself instead of giving up as you seem to have done.
2) Insist that if any elected delegate does not have sufficient annual leave they be allowed to anticipate leave if necessary while facility time is being sought.
3) Fight any refusal by management of an elected delegate’s right to attend conference centrally. The Group always have done before. Why are you leaving reps to fight alone now?
4) Refuse to allow management to divide and rule. GEC members should stand in solidarity with reps by taking leave too until this matter is resolved.
DWP reps will never allow anything to stop us from representing members to the best of our ability. What we expect from you is that you back reps to the hilt.
Weakness invites aggression. If you do not stand up and fight this attack what will happen in the rest of the talks over DWP facility time?
Members facing the worst threat ever to their terms and conditions now watch their reps forced to meekly lose up to four days annual leave as you accept this situation. Keep fighting. Don’t cause members to worry about how you intend to fight the threat to all of our terms and conditions.
We urge you not to let management off so easily. Fight for DWP reps and members – they deserve it.
Together we can win
Leeds PCS Branch Secretary
You have been told comrades!