Sunday, 18 January 2015

Why I'm resigning from PCS and joining Prospect

After over thirty years of membership of PCS and it's predecessor unions I have decided the time has come to call it a day and leave the union. This is not a decision I have either taken lightly or indeed rushed into but one that cannot be put off any longer.

The PCS union is currently in the middle of what I can only describe as a terminal crisis, one which is to a large extent is of it's own making. That is to say the result of years of bad leadership, poor political and financial practice.

Since the current leadership under General Secretary Mark Serwotka along with the Socialist Party, SWP and other assorted malcontents of the far-left have come to dominate the unions affairs, PCS has been deliberately turned away from representing the members to using the union as a platform for the interests of political activists.

As a result the union has become less influential both with the employer (resulting in an inability to negotiate realistically), the other unions in the TUC and disengaged from the actual interests of the members themselves.

Both Serwotka and the Socialist Party have prioritised seeking to establish an "alternative political party" of the left. Serwotka threw his weight behind the appalling George Galloway's misnamed Respect Party until the fallout out with the Socialist Workers Party ended that alliance and now the leadership have a policy to "stand & support candidates" in the General Election which will lead to support for the Socialist Party's tiny and irrelevant Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition.

Even as the current financial crisis broke the comrades discussed using the unions limited finances to intervene in the coming election at their "Left Unity" conference late last year.

But it's not just the political nonsense that has brought me to this decision. It's the way the union has been run that is my other major concern.

In 2012 the union faced a major split (hidden from the wider membership) when the reps and members of almost a whole department, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) left en mass following Serwotka's refusal to allow them to negotiate compensation over the loss of strike rights when they were subsumed into the Police Force.

They have now formed their own successful trade union the National Crime Officers Association.

This caused a serious loss in both membership and income to PCS.

That has come back to haunt them as we have seen with the attempt to get Unite to literally take us over last year. Not a merger a takeover. During that debate we suddenly discovered there was a financial crisis as PCS has a pensions deficit of £7.5 million. And that was not all it would seem.

Without consultation and quite sneakily planning permission was sought and obtained for the sale of PCS headquarters in Clapham Junction. By the time anyone found out it was too late. The NEC have now authorised the sale.

The unions leadership blame the "end of check off" but whilst this attack on trade union rights is quite real, the crisis quite obviously pre-dates this. 

The National Executive Committee (NEC) has even cancelled this years internal union elections as PCS apparently needs to save money. Therefore all these measures will go through without any accountability to the membership until it's far too late.

In fact it's far too late now.

PCS ceased being a representative union years ago. Members have been kept in the dark and attempts to tell members what has been going on have faced continual censorship. 

Discussion on the setting up of the new Revenue & Customs Trade Union (a breakaway in the HMRC) was suppressed on the unions Face Book page and Serwotka even attempted to get this blog to take down an article published on the subject.

The reason? PCS is having difficulties in getting it's members to sign up.

In my view signing up to PCS by Direct Debit is akin to buying tickets for the Titanic after it's hit the ice burg.

PCS is beyond reform, beyond saving.

The time has come for change.

I have therefore cancelled my subscription to PCS and am applying for membership of Prospect, the other main civil service trade union.

Prospect: Union for professionals

Not an easy decision to make, but the right one and I cordially invite you to join me.

Please see here: Prospect website

I realise that this will be a major decision for many people, but one that needs serious consideration. 

There is time for you to think about this as "check off" doesn't end until March in the DWP and April in the HMRC. If you are in the HMRC you may wish to consider the RCTU.

In case you are wondering what finally made up my mind about leaving PCS it was another act of censorship. The unions propaganda unit removed my post on the PCS Face Book page about Charlie Hebdoe. Too "emotive" they wrote to me.

Yeah right. 

Free speech is a trade union issue.  

There has been too much secrecy and spin in PCS since the comrades took over. 

Time to go.......


  1. Sorry to hear of this Howie. I too am at very end of my limit with PCS ( abet nationally ). The RCTU looks as it will gain more members from HMRC this year. Good luck in Prospect. Strange enough I can join prospect from Next Month too.

  2. Sorry to hear that they've finally worn you down Howie. You know I agree with everything you say about the union nationally and especially about our current leaders. I won't be joining you, but only because the situation on the ground is different in my group and we have managed to carve out a slightly different way of working, which still allows us to do a lot of good work at the grass roots level.

    I hope you keep in touch and keep telling us what you think here - I'm especially interested to hear what life is like on the otherside.

    Yours fraternally,

    Paul K.

  3. Howard
    Sorry to hear you are going, it will weaken the union, and i will miss your insights.
    I haven't always agreed with you, but your opinion has been useful and appreciated.
    I hope you continue this blog, and continue to give us an alternative point of view.
    Finally, best of luck for the future, and thanks.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Alan. This blog will continue and when something about PCS needs reporting it will appear here! All the best to you too!

  4. The end of check off in 2 months has nothing to do with the financial mess PCS is in. That is completely down to the way the leadership have managed them and falling membership is alsodown to how the leadership treat the members with contempt. If your not in their clique, they don't want to hear from you. I wonder how many members with savings in the PCS credit union made swift withdraws when news of the unions finances was eventually disclosed?

  5. I can't speak for PCS Howard, but as a long time member and the Vice president of the National Trust Branch, in my experience I think you've joined a good union (and growing union) with Prospect.

    You sound very passionate about the cause and I hope you will consider standing as rep in your own branch.

    Either way, best of luck in your future with Prospect.

    Leigh Freeman

    1. Cheers Leigh, I think Prospect is a good choice and I remain committed to trade unionism, though being a rep will probably have to wait a while! Best wishes to you as well!