Guest Post by Lynda Priestley
In my own group, Revenue & Customs, I have stood against the far left for Group President in 3 consecutive elections and won. Those colleagues who assert their independence have been similarly successful. These independents include former members of Left Unity who became disenchanted with its centralised nature and left that organisation. R&C group independents have been successful despite personal and political attacks from the far left (which most of you reading this will recognise only too well) and despite the pitifully low turn out in elections.
However there have never been enough independents elected to secure a majority on the group and as a consequence, industrial relations with the employer have reached an all time low. I believe this situation is replicated in many PCS groups.
Many colleagues have approached me to stand in the 2014 Assistant General Secretary election. Initially I didn’t take it seriously – an interesting rumour I thought. However, over the Christmas break, I gave it more serious consideration. I’m an optimist but even I’ve been disillusioned for a while, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
So, I’ve decided I should practice what I preach and maybe the following will give you an idea as to why I think it’s time for a change.
In my view the current leadership are neither representative of the members nor do they represent members effectively
However, they are very well organised and disciplined. They will continue to win a majority, relying on the absence of an alternative and the continuing low turn out at elections
I want to be part of that alternative and hopefully encourage others to stand for union positions
The first hurdle is to secure enough branch nominations to appear on the ballot. The next 6 weeks are crucial. Can you help? Will you nominate me at your branch AGM?
So why am I standing? Those of you who have been around since the various mergers will recall that 10 years ago we had a union which put members interests before political posturing. We had significant assets both in terms of reserves and property. Those assets have dissipated and its common knowledge that union finances are far from healthy (which is putting it mildly).
When PCS came into being, roughly 50% of full time staff employed were engaged in some aspect of bargaining activity with employers, a core purpose of any Trade Union. Now that % has shrunk alarmingly. Many current full timers have neither the inclination nor the experience to engage with employers in a meaningful way. Even worse, under an executive directive, excellent negotiators are being steered away from any industrial negotiations onto organising work leaving lay reps to pick up the slack. The onslaught on union facilities time leaves those lay reps with the impossible situation of more work with less time and support.
The latest attack on the union is the withdrawal of check off. It is hardly a bolt from the blue given the attitude of the current government. Do you know that other Civil Service unions recognised the threat and have already moved their members onto direct debit. They planned ahead whilst our leadership buried its collective head in the sand, refused to acknowledge a coming reality and is now frantically engaged in a last minute exercise to persuade members to switch.
It will become increasingly difficult to provide effective negotiations with employers. Therefore we have a lose-lose situation for our members and our hard pressed reps.
These are some of the issues I’d like to discuss and develop over the next few months.
I need your views but first I need your help in securing nominations. I’m hopeful that together we can start a programme of effective change in PCS.