The main focus of members of the PCS union has rightfully been on the sudden admission of the depth of the unions into financial crisis. The suspension of next years internal group and national elections has led to considerable outrage inside the union.
Meanwhile I have been sent a copy of a circular issued on December 12th in the PCS HMRC Group which was intended for "reps only" according to the circulars brief.
The issuing of any public comment on internal union disciplinary procedures is unusual enough, but given what else is going on this episode shows that the crisis is more than just fiancial.
In the interest of open debate I have published the Official PCS circular written by Peter Middleton the HMRC Group Secretary followed by a public reply from the subject of this circular, Margie Rathbone.
Branch Briefing REVENUE & CUSTOMS GROUP
It has become apparent that Margi is attempting to establish a staff association in HMRC in competition to PCS. Some individuals in HMRC have been approached by Margi and asked to join the association. Quite rightly, very few people, if any, have joined. However, in these communications Margi has made inaccurate statements about the reason she is no longer a PCS rep.
Margi’s actions go far beyond the usual debate and discussion that occurs in a democratic union such as ours. A former, disgruntled rep is attempting to undermine PCS as a union. It is surely no coincidence that the recently leaked ‘ExCom’ paper refers to management forming “new alliances” in order to marginalise PCS at the same time as Margi is making an attempt to set up her staff association.
Even though the staff association is tiny and unlikely to grow, the union has an overriding responsibility to defend your interests. Therefore, despite our wish to maintain Margi’s privacy and keep the details of the disciplinary action that was taken against her confidential, she has left the union with no option but to set the record straight.
The General Secretary received complaints under this rule from three HMRC reps that Margi Rathbone had attempted to use management processes, which could lead to disciplinary action by the employer, against them. This was done despite a full investigation by the union into Margi’s complaint that the reps had made untrue claims about her in the course of a discussion on a PCS facebook page, which led to remedial action taken by the union. Margi had specifically raised with management the possibility of removing the reps’ facility time.
The national executive committee agreed that the complaints from the reps should be investigated. Subsequently an independent disciplinary committee which is made up of experienced current and former members of the union found that Margi Rathbone’s actions had seriously prejudiced the interests of PCS.
As a result Margi Rathbone was disqualified from holding union positions in PCS for a period of three years. Margi appealed against this decision to our independent National Appeals Committee which is an elected body. The NAC dismissed her appeal unanimously.
Our disciplinary procedure is fair and robust. Margi Rathbone was given every opportunity to present her case and justify her actions. The NEC, the members of the Disciplinary Committee and the members of the National Appeals Committee all agreed that for a senior union official to report other PCS reps to the employer over a union matter, and ask the employer to remove their facility time, was fundamentally wrong.
It is an important principle that a union must deal with complaints such as Margi’s within the union and not allow the employer to use them against us. Holding fast to that principle is even more important at this challenging time when unity is vital to our defence of members’ jobs.
Margie Rathbone - A Personal Statement