Monday, 1 June 2015

Now PCS falls out with Prospect

If there is one thing Mark Serwotka the vainglorious General Secretary of PCS is good at, it's managing to fall out with anybody and everybody that doesn't agree with his "vision" for the working class. Relations between the varios civil service unions have been "strained" for years.

PCS forced the closure of the Council of Civil Service Unions some years back by threatning to veto everything if it wasn't. The reason? Serwotka, Lanning and the Socialist Party thought they should have the final say over everything regardless of what the other unions thought. Then there was the debacle over threatening a strike in the Border Agency on an 11% turnout the day before the Olympics started which brought the Sword of Damocles down on the unions heads.

The other unions (including those outside the civil service were furious) and we're paying for Serwotka's folly to this day. Talk about handing the Tories our collective heads on a plate!

Still you'll be pleased to know that Serwotka still hasn't learn't any lessons. It's his sandpit and we're all supposed to do what he says. Only the other unions aren't having it.

Relations with Prospect (and the FDA I would imagine) have hit rock bottom.

The following letter has been sent to Prospect Branch Secretaries in the Civil Service on 27th May 2015:

Dear Colleagues

Relations with PCS

I am disappointed to be writing to you about the deteriorating relationship with PCS at a national level. My purpose in doing so is to ensure that Prospect Civil Service branches and representatives are aware of what we see as the position, rather than what may be portrayed by elements within PCS following their conference last week.

At the outset of the PCS conference on 19 May, Mark Serwotka, the PCS General Secretary, chose to describe both Prospect and FDA as a ‘disgrace’ in relation to certain matters. This outburst occurred on more than one occasion in his opening presentation to PCS delegates.

It seems that two matters animated this attack. Firstly, it was a ‘disgrace’ according to PCS that Prospect had negotiated facility time for delegates to attend our Civil Service Sector conference, whereas PCS had not been similarly successful for all their delegates attending their conference. I leave Prospect representatives to reflect on the wisdom of drawing attention to this matter from their conference platform in this manner.

Secondly, Prospect and FDA were branded a ‘disgrace’ because we recently wrote to PCS raising concerns about certain aspects of policy and approach to industrial relations within the Civil Service. That correspondence had not been circulated by Prospect but was divulged in a partial and self-serving form by the PCS General Secretary.

The facts

It is never edifying for trade unions to disagree in public. We acknowledge the strong working relationships that exist in parts of the civil service within departmental trade union groups. However, relationships with the national leadership of PCS have been increasingly difficult in recent years. This has largely been because they have pursued their agenda with little or no preparedness to engage with other unions operating in this sphere and no regard for the effect their actions will have on those unions. 

They have largely refused to reach agreements on the bargaining agenda and regularly criticised other Unions where we have reached an accommodation with government. It would seem it is PCS’s way or no way Unions should be able to co-exist even where there are some fundamental differences of opinion. However our position must not be misrepresented so it is vital that Prospect representatives know the position from our perspective. The following correspondence is relevant:
  • My letter of 9 January 2013 telling PCS we were taking stock of our position in the face of their submission of their own national demands to Francis Maude in December 2012 (also attached) which were never the subject of any prior discussion with the National Trade Union Council (NTUC); 
  • My letter of 4 February 2013 inviting discussions with PCS to achieve some common ways forward. That letter received no acknowledgement or response;
  • A PCS letter of 20 February 2015 circulated to all Trade Union General Secretaries. This dealt with matters specific to the Civil Service (facility time and check off removal) which directly affected Prospect members. PCS had determined the shape and scope of this ‘campaign’ as they saw it, painting the scenario that PCS were the only union suffering from those matters, without any prior consultation with similarly affected Unions, primarily Prospect, FDA, Unite and GMB;
  • My response to PCS of 27 February, which was the subject of endorsement of the senior elected officers of Prospect, both nationally and within the Civil Service. The PCS response of 13 March 2015 is also attached. The matter rested there and we chose not to respond further. 
  • My letter of 20 May following the remarks at the PCS conference.
Next Steps

I said at the outset that is disappointing to have to write to Prospect representatives in this manner but the comments criticising Prospect were made to an annual conference composed of PCS delegates who will be returning to their Union work alongside Prospect colleagues, such as you, so our position must be clear.

We want to maintain the good working relationships at local level but any form of relationship nationally is now in jeopardy. This has also happened exactly at the time when we need to be seen to be united and when we need to be reflecting on how we influence a government that has more challenging plans ahead for the Civil Service and when we will need to be imaginative in how we succeed for members in this environment.

There has to be a place for dialogue, negotiation and progress. It cannot all be about constant reference to confrontation. There is undoubtedly a need for robust responses if dialogue fails but one of the most noticeable aspects of the speech by the PCS General Secretary is his admission that their national ballot turnouts have never topped 42% and have been steadily declining. Some reflection on what this says about their strategy and its appeal to members would perhaps have benefited everyone but it seems the conclusion is that all that is needed is more of the same. Prospect and FDA are then at fault for not blindly following the PCS ‘lead’.

The Prospect Civil Service conference is on 3 June and we will gather the night before when I am looking forward to speaking to delegates at the dinner. That conference is our opportunity to reflect and start to chart our direction in the aftermath of the election and the broader dynamics of devolvement of powers to the nations.

We should be determined to address the major issues before us: how to relate to the new government, renew the debate about the purpose and vitality of the civil service, challenge people policies that are damaging such as the approach to performance management and give members hope that the next five years can be different to the previous five. That is what we will concentrate upon and need your help in achieving.

Yours sincerely

Mike Clancy

General Secretary

No comments:

Post a Comment