Saturday, 27 December 2014

PCS attacks Margie Rathbone and her reply.


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.


We are taking the unusual step of explaining the background to the removal from office of a former PCS representative following a breach of the union's rules.

Margie Rathbone

Branches have previously been informed that Margi Rathbone no longer holds the post of Deputy Group Secretary. We have not commented on the reasons for that due to the need to maintain a level of confidentiality while the union’s rules concerning disciplinary action were being followed. We have now been authorised by the national union to release the following statement.

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

In a frankly amazing and shameless breach of trust and confidence, PCS in HMRC has published a briefing entitled “Margi Rathbone” and sent it to all their Branch secretaries, Branch Chairs and Equalities leads. This briefing is riddled with lies, inaccuracies but most of all; it is an act of personal spite and retribution by the General Secretary Mark Serwotka and his cohorts against me for having the temerity to offer an alternative trade union structure within Revenue and Customs. Yes, a vicious and malicious attempt to destroy my reputation and dissuade PCS reps from coming over to Revenue and Customs Trade Union. This cannot and will not work – 3,500+ PCS members voted for me to be their lead negotiator in May 2014 – I am still their lead negotiator, but PCS decided long ago that I was persona non grata, due to my stance of negotiations before opposition, engagement before industrial action. They have admitted that their reps bullied abused and threatened me on Facebook. 
Those reps apologized; so admitting they had done what they were accused of. But that’s not the point according to PCS. Their point is this; If you are an employee of HMRC and look to your employer for support when threatened and abused by a PCS representative is “crossing a line”- and you have brought the union into serious disrepute. This clearly and obviously sets all PCS reps above the ordinary members like you – no surprise there, given the brazen way the General Secretary and his acolytes have blithely set aside elections, sold off the members assets and are making PCS employees redundant at Christmas. A bold move? Oh yes, worthy of Tory Chancellor George Osborne himself.

Most PCS members don’t know who runs the union. Most don’t care as their loyalty is to the union movement and they trust that those they vote for have higher motives and the union work is a vocation. Sadly this is not so, PCS is run by a group of ultra left (I hesitate to call them) socialists, who have gained control of the hierarchy of PCS through their splinter group Left Unity. Left Unity has infiltrated the Branches and with its tactics of command and control of its members (all 2000 of them) this minority group has corrupted PCS and is now destroying it.

But why would they do this? Because their agenda is not one that a true trade union will follow. A true trade union does what’s best for its members to improve their working life, preserve their jobs and get better pay and pensions. PCS NEC wants power within Parliament. It’s the stated aim of the General Secretary and he makes no secret of it in his frequent appearances in public forums and his latest magazine article where he claims he was re-elected (he wasn’t, he was unopposed) and that he supports proportional representation – so does UKIP. In HMRC Left Unity is King, they make all the decisions, they have been the majority on the Group Executive since merger – a constituency of reps who control the Branches elects them. They have worked hard to ignore and marginalize the membership, so successfully that only 9% voted in the last elections. This small turnout suits them as it ensures their survival. 
They have successfully alienated HMRC SOs and HOs to the extent that 7.5% resigned from PCS in summer 2014 and 15% left overall – far in excess of the job losses that PCS blames for its ever declining membership. Clearly people want an alternative to PCS and that’s what I am offering by forming Revenue and Customs trade union – yes trade union, not staff association as PCS labeled us. PCS is petrified of our challenge to their closed shop – that’s why they malign me and try to discredit RCTU. PCS can no longer claim to be a members led union – that’s the Myth of the Week, Month and year.

RCTU will launch formally in February or earlier if our website is functional, we have an application for Certification to the list of trade unions lodged, and we have an official logo and are ready to accept members to join via direct debit. Look out for us in your workplace as we will be recruiting and sharing our vision of what a 21st century trade union can do for you.

Go to: Revenue & Customs Union  for further information.

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