This afternoon up to 150 protesters from PCS, other unions, trades councils, political parties/groups and local people marched through Hastings to draw attention to, and protest against, the dismissal of PCS DWP Group Hastings Branch Secretary Sam Buckley. We were also protesting against the dismissal of four branch officers who went before him and voicing a call for a public enquiry.
PCS believe that these people have been dismissed because they were effective branch officers who weren’t willing to allow attacks on their members to go unchallenged.
The treatment of these dedicated PCS reps bodes ill for every branch official, and member, in PCS and other public sector unions. If the attacks go unchallenged they could be replicated elsewhere, weakening our abilities to defend members at exactly the time when defence will be needed most.
The call for a public enquiry is especially important. Five branch officers have been dismissed in the space of just over two years. As it stands DWP have come out of this looking pretty bad. Surely, if they had reasonable grounds to dismiss these people, they will welcome the opportunity to clear their name.
While today’s protest alone won’t bring about the reinstatement of Sam and his colleagues it was an opportunity to impress on those present the dangers that we all face and to give a message to take back to our branches:
If we don’t defend Sam Buckley, we, any of us, anywhere, could be next.
The dreadful situation in Hastings serves to highlight how hard we are going to have to fight over the coming months and years. If there are any PCS members out there who think that their jobs are safe they need to think again.
Between us we can stand up to the ConDem cuts, we can stand up to the attacks on our redundancy payments, pensions, pay and working conditions, but every member, rep and full time officer needs to join the battle.
There was one moment of relative cheer today: a BNP supporter was halted in his heckling, relieved of his beer by the Police and sent packing., which was nice.
There is more information about the treatment of the branch officers in Hastings on the Socialist Unity site: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=6612