Seven reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot and how to do it – with video

vote-yes-cropBallot papers for PCS’s industrial action ballot have started arriving through members’ letterboxes from today.

To help members decide what to do we’ve put all of our seven reasons to vote YES|YES in one handy post, along with a simple instructional film. The film’s a couple of years old but the technique is the same.

Click the links under the video to expand our seven reasons to vote YES|YES.

 

Seven reasons to vote YES|YES

Click the arrows to expand the reasons.

 

Our demands:

  • A pay increase of £1,200 or 5% for 2013
  • An end to the pay freeze/cap
  • Scrapping plans to rip up our terms and conditions
  • An end to the raid on public sector pensions.

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013

Write to your MP to ask them to support our campaign. They might ignore you but at least you’ll have tried! PCS e-action

There is a possibility that part-time JobCentre workers will be forced to find additional hours or face benefit sanctions while the government is cutting civil service jobs. Yes, really.

Reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot – 7) The Bigger Picture

vote-yes-cropOne comment which is occasionally made about PCS is that we are too political and should spend more time focusing on members’ issues.

The thing is, our employer is the Government (even our private sector members are paid by the government, albeit indirectly) and our members are part of the public, suffering from the same political decisions as everybody else.

Members’ issues are political issues. There’s no getting away from it. Members in Job Centres want to help people find work but instead are told to sanction people, push them in to low paid employment or send them off to provide taxpayer funded labour via Workfare. Members in the DVLA want to provide a service to their community but are facing office closures, despite overwhelming public support. Members in the EHRC want to help employers implement equality legislation but are being cut to the bone and eviscerated. Members in HMRC pursue small businesses and individuals while government policy allows multinationals avoid billions in tax.

That’s in the workplace as civil servants but our members are suffering at the hand of government policy at home too. PCS members will be affected by the Bedroom Tax, the dismantling of the NHS, cuts to in-work benefits, cuts to local services such as libraries and day centres, their childrens’ schools being forced to become academies, their family members having their disability benefits cut by the malevolent government instructed hand of ATOS, privatisation of services etc.

But we also suffer as employees, through the pay freeze, job cuts, a pay cut rebranded as increased pension contributions, the attacks on our terms and conditions and deskilling to fatten us up for privatisation, office closures and ever more measures to get rid of us on the cheap, such as attendance management procedures.

So yes, we are political. We have to be. The government has positioned itself as the enemy for us as employees and as members of the public.

There is no political solution to this: all three of the major political parties are signed up to the austerity agenda, despite increasing evidence that it is exacerbating the crisis.

Industrial action is our only recourse.

PCS members can be proud that we stood firm over the pensions dispute. Unfortunately we were let down by some other unions but this time we don’t have to rely on anybody else.

Vote YES|YES both as a PCS member and as a member of the public.

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013

There is a possibility that part-time JobCentre workers will be forced to find additional hours or face benefit sanctions while the government is cutting civil service jobs. Yes, really.

Reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot – 6) Trade Union representation

vote-yes-cropAlthough not explicitly mentioned in our ballot demands the attack on Civil Service trade unions is a very important part of the campaign and one of the points Mark Serwotka raised in his letters to Bob Kerslake..(popup).

The Cabinet Office ran a consultation from July – September 2012, publishing its response in October. Among the replies to the consultation were many trade unions and, inevitably, the Tax Payers’ Alliance and Trade Union Reform Coalition.

This is a long post. Click here to cut to the chaseShould this make you vote YES|YES?

Initially the Cabinet Office proposals don’t seem too onerous. They want to:

  • reduce trade union facilities from the current estimated 0.14% of the pay bill to 0.1%,
  • limit trade union reps to a maximum of 50% facility time except in specially agreed cases,
  • limit paid time off and other facilities to union ‘duties’ rather than union ‘activities’,
  • standardise monitoring of facilities time.

With the exception of reducing facilities as a percentage of the pay bill by nearly a third that all seems quite reasonable. However, when seen in context it’s much more worrying.

Pay bill

Even if the Civil Service head count wasn’t being reduced current policies are inevitably going to lead to an increase in personal cases. As it is the reduced head count theoretically means a reduced pay bill so, even if we stayed at the estimated 0.14% we would be looking at a smaller amount. The further reduction to 0.1% is, to use the well-worn phrase, a double whammy.

For many reps the vast majority of their facilities time is spent on personal cases, representing members in disputes with their managers, sorting out issues covering anything from end of year markings to bullying and requests for a change in hours to dismissals, sometimes leading to many, many days spent preparing for, and representing members in, Employment Tribunals. As the government finds increasingly sneaky ways to reduce headcount, beit through performance management quotas or office closures, attendance management or restrictions of flexible working, the amount of time reps spend dealing with these cases will inevitably increase. We’re already seeing the effects.

The reduction in facilities as a percentage of the already reduced pay bill will limit the amount of time reps can spend supporting and representing members at a time when more members need that support and representation than ever before.

Limit trade union reps to 50% facilities time

Again this might not seem unreasonable at first glance. The vast majority of PCS reps are on a few days facilities time a year and most branch officers are only on 50 – 60 days. Some are on a fair bit more if they have multiple roles or large branches. For most reps this change wouldn’t make a lot of difference.

There are two obvious problems with the argument:

  1. Some reps will inevitably end up using more than 50% of their time just through their day-to-day duties, particularly with the increased amount of personal cases we face. Is the Secretary of State really going to have the time to approve all of these requests for extra time? PCS are trying to recruit more reps to limit the amount of facilities time any one rep has to use but that’s not going to reduce the overall amount of time used, it’s just going to mean less experienced reps dealing with personal cases. A cynic could suggest that this is part of the plan…
  2. Reps on the GEC (Group Executive Committee) and NEC (National Executive Committee) and other negotiators spend a lot of time in meetings with management, spend a lot of time travelling, spend a lot of time visiting branches etc. To adequately represent members they need time. 50% really isn’t enough.

The 50% cap is the sort of proposal that would be submitted by people who have little idea of how trade unions work and little idea of the time negotiations, workplace issues and personal cases take.

Duties vs Activities

This is a thorny one. Most people accept that it’s fairly reasonable for Civil Service departments to take umbrage at reps using departmental facilities to promote industrial action against said departments. That’s why we’re already prohibited from doing so.

However, we are ultimately employed by the government. Our personal cases are largely the result of government policy. Our defence of public services is largely in the face of government policy. Our desire to fulfill our remit of doing our jobs the way they should be done, fighting against cuts which will affect services and the privatisation which would see taxpayers’ money supporting private interests is largely in the face of government policy.

As yet the Cabinet Office hasn’t defined where the duties/activities line is drawn. If they chose to they could decide that any personal case could be an activity rather than a duty and any members’ meeting could be an activity rather than a duty. Given the nature of our work they could decide that everything we do is an activity rather than a duty.

Some departments have already ripped up their facilities time agreements (which is quite probably illegal) and told reps that they have to apply to their managers for every minute of facilities time they spend.

Would you want to be in a workplace where your rep has to jump through hoops to get permission to speak to you? If you’re a manager would you want to be put in the position of having to make the decision in a hostile environment?

Standardise monitoring

No arguments there. If anything we need standardised monitoring across the entire trade union movement, including extra-curricular non-facilities time activity, so we can show how much we actually do.

Should this make you vote YES|YES?

That largely depends on how you view the situation. The government is attacking your pay, your pension and your terms and conditions. It’s also threatening your job through privatisation and a reduced headcount. They’re not stupid: they know that PCS are a powerful union and they are trying to limit our effectiveness. They are trying to limit our effectiveness to support members.

They are trying to limit our effectiveness to support members and to fight for the public, of which we are part.

If you don’t vote YES|YES how else are you going to defend yourself?

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013

All of the industrial action, wider campaigning and political stuff that I put on this site is done in my own time. I’m writing this on a Sunday afternoon when I could be watching the telly.

Reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot – 5) The Kerslake Letters

vote-yes-cropMany members won’t be aware of the correspondence exchange between Mark Serwotka, PCS’s General Secretary and Bob Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service.

Mark sets out our demands and asks for a meeting. Bob Kerslake, who is supposed to be politically neutral, parrots the government’s austerity line, rehashing talk of ‘tough decisions’ and basically says, ‘Tough, deal with it.’

They make for interesting reading.

After reading Bob Kerslake’s responses ask yourself, do you really want to roll over for somebody who sees your demands as so irrelevant he won’t even discuss them? A man whose response to the problems you face is condescension? This is a man who, on £200,000, is unlikely to be overly troubled by the pay freeze and pay cap, the pensions pay cut, the loss of privilege days, performance management quotas or the attack on trade unions.

Your YES|YES vote might help him to reconsider.

The letters are posted in full below to save you having to download the files individually. This does make for a long post but you can go straight to the individual letters on the page by clicking these links:.

PCS letter to Kerslake 17 December, 2012

Response from Kerslake 19 December, 2012

PCS letter to Kerslake 18 January, 2013

Response from Kerslake 31 January, 2013

 

 

PCS letter to Kerslake 17 December, 2012

Dear Sir Bob

I am writing to seek assurances on a range of issues arising from the UK government’s policies on cutting public spending and the detrimental effect of these policies on PCS members’ pay, terms and conditions, jobs, and pensions.

In 2011 I wrote to your predecessor, Sir Gus O’Donnell, setting out in detail my union’s position that the deep cuts that the government is currently implementing are unnecessary and potentially economically counterproductive. I pointed out that the so-called austerity policies risked exacerbating the recession and causing a ‘double dip’. Since then we have been proved conclusively right – austerity has failed to create jobs or economic growth. As we predicted, the government has attacked jobs, pensions and pay, threatened privatisation and attacked and demonised those entitled to welfare. Yet all of this has worsened rather than improved the economy and people’s lives. PCS, together with a number of other trade unions and economists, have advocated an alternative policy of investment in public services to create economic growth and closing the tax gap as a means of dealing with the national deficit.

I asked Sir Gus to engage with PCS meaningfully and to negotiate properly and fully on the proposals I made on pay, pensions, and jobs. Regrettably, that engagement in a process of discussion aimed at reaching agreement did not take place. Consequently, industrial action took place alongside other unions with similar disputes arising from government policy. Since then the Government has continued with damaging public sector wide pay policies, changes to public sector pension schemes, departmental budget cuts with negative implications for jobs, and, most recently a review of terms and conditions with potentially grave consequences for PCS members. Given these developments, I am now writing to set out key issues on which the union is now seeking assurances.  I am writing to the heads of devolved governments and NDPBs as well as yourself.

First, we are seeking assurances from the UK government, devolved governments and public sector bodies that the policy of pay caps and pay restraint will end, and that there will be national negotiations on achieving a fair pay rise for all staff. We seek a minimum 5% pay increase for all staff or £1200, whichever is the greater. The Living Wage – £8.55 an hour in London, and £7.45 outside the capital – should underpin all pay policies and contracts with private companies providing public services. As part of developing a fair, efficient pay system we seek a level playing field with other areas of the public sector on the costing and implementation of pay awards and on pay progression for all staff.

Secondly, we seek a process of negotiation on pay that recognises that equality concerns should be the central principle on which pay systems are based. This would require, as a minimum that pay gaps within and across departments are closed, that there are no discriminatory performance pay systems and that short pay scales with contractual progression are developed.

Thirdly, we seek assurances that there will be no detrimental changes to terms and conditions, whether as a result of the current Cabinet Office directed review or otherwise. Changes to part-time working and flexitime are likely to hit women and those with caring responsibilities the hardest. No robust economic or managerial justification has been offered for the government’s proposals to worsen terms and conditions. As you know, PCS members have already taken part in protests across the UK to express their anger and dismay at the review.

Fourthly, we seek a guarantee that the planned increases in PCS members’ pension contributions will not take place. In the continuing talks on civil service, and in other public sector pension schemes affecting our members, we want to ensure that there will be no increase in the pension age and no reduction in pension benefits arising from changes in indexation.

Fifthly, we seek a guarantee that the Protocols on avoiding compulsory redundancy will be fully applied.

Sixth, we seek assurances that there will be no further privatisation or outsourcing to voluntary and other organisations of civil service or other government and public sector body work.

Lastly, we seek assurances that there will be no cuts to facility time for union representatives. During the recent Cabinet Office consultation PCS sought to reach a general agreement to cover reviews of facility time arrangements across the non-devolved civil service. We have emphasised the beneficial role trade unions play in the workplace and that cuts in facility time do not have any economic or managerial justification. As Geoff Lewtas said in his letter of 16 October, the government must recognise that the proposed cuts would fundamentally rupture industrial relations in the civil service, as well as in other government and public sector bodies, were similar proposals to be adopted there.

I am disappointed that as yet we have had no satisfactory reply from you to our correspondence on these issues, and that satisfactory arrangements have not yet been made to meet and fully discuss these issues with you.

The assurances we seek are, I believe, achievable given sufficient will to do so on both sides. PCS members deserve such assurances. They will not accept detrimental changes to their terms and conditions, and threats to their employment and to the public services they work hard to deliver, imposed without negotiations and consideration of the alternatives.

I hope that you are able to make a positive response to our reasonable demands. I would be grateful if you could set out in your reply a timetable for negotiations on the proposals I have made in this letter. I would be happy to meet to discuss such a timetable.

I would emphasise that resolution of the issues of concern to our members is a matter of urgency, if we are to avoid serious industrial relations difficulties arising. The PCS national executive is meeting again on 15 January 2013 to discuss your response.

Yours sincerely

Mark Serwotka

General Secretary

 

 

Response from Kerslake 19 December, 2012

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your letter date 17th December which I received today, regarding the Government’s policies on reducing public spending to ensure greater efficiency, and detrimental impact you consider this has on your members.

I do understand that the Governments drive to reduce this country’s unprecedented deficit has not been easy, and that Civil Servants also had to play their part in this. I do believe however that the Civil Service Workforce Reforms which we are taking forward are a necessary and proportionate response to this country’s current economic position, and action now will help to protect jobs in the Civil Service and support the quality of services to the public.

It is particularly disappointing that you are once again considering taking your members down the path of potential industrial action, which will only result in damaging the public your members seek to serve. I understand that the
first meeting of the Civil Service Forum was held earlier this week Chaired on my behalf by Lin Homer and this was a positive engagement. I would urge you to continue talking with Cabinet Office officials to seek resolutions to your
concerns.

Bob Kerslake

 

 

PCS letter to Kerslake 18 January, 2013

Dear Sir Bob

I am writing to express my disappointment at your letter of 19 December 2012 which provided none of the assurances sought in my letter to you of 17 December 2012.  You refer to positive engagement at the first meeting of the Civil Service Forum on 17 December 2012. However, as you will be aware, no assurances were received on the matters set out in my letter.

There is currently no formal, proper process of discussion and negotiation between us. It is clearly unacceptable that you, as the Head of the Civil Service, should refuse to discuss civil servants’ serious concerns over their pay and conditions and to engage with their trade union in proper negotiations.

The National Executive Committee discussed your response at its meeting on 15 January. As we have not received assurances on these issues or any positive response to our request for negotiations, we have no alternative but to state that we are in a trade dispute with you. The NEC has agreed that, in the absence of those assurances, members will be asked to vote for industrial action. However, we are willing to meet with you and engage in a proper process of talks at any time in order to find a resolution to the issues I raised in my letter of 17 December 2012.

In our view those discussions should include consideration of the alternatives to cuts in pay, jobs, pensions and working conditions. In your reply you said that the government’s policies and civil service reforms were necessary. However as I said in my letter to you, my union believes that public spending cuts policies are damaging the economy and that there are alternatives available.

I sought assurances from you in my letter 17 December 2012 on a range of issues arising from this government’s policies.

First, I sought assurances from the UK government, devolved governments and public sector bodies that the policy of pay caps and pay restraint will end, and that there will be national negotiations on achieving a fair pay rise for all staff. We seek a minimum 5% pay increase for all staff or £1200, whichever is the greater. The Living Wage – £8.55 an hour in London, and £7.45 outside the capital – should underpin all pay policies and contracts with private companies providing public services. As part of developing a fair, efficient pay system we seek a level playing field with other areas of the public sector on the costing and implementation of pay awards and on pay progression for all staff.

Second, I sought a process of negotiation on pay that recognises that equality concerns should be the central principle on which pay systems are based. This would require as a minimum that pay gaps within and across departments are closed, that there are no discriminatory performance pay systems and that short pay scales with contractual progression are developed.

Third, I sought assurances that there will be no detrimental changes to terms and conditions, whether as a result of the current Cabinet Office directed review or otherwise. Changes to part-time working and flexitime are likely to hit women and those with caring responsibilities the hardest. No robust economic or managerial justification has been offered for the government’s proposals to worsen terms and conditions.

Fourth, I sought a guarantee that the planned increases in PCS members’ pension contributions will not take place, but the decision to impose further contribution rises from April 2013 was notified to unions on 8 January 2013. In the continuing talks on civil service, and in other public sector pension schemes affecting our members, we want to ensure that there will be no increase in the pension age and no reduction in pension benefits arising from changes in indexation.

Fifth, I sought a guarantee that the Protocols on avoiding compulsory redundancy will be fully applied.

Sixth, I sought assurances that there will be no further privatisation or outsourcing to voluntary and other organisations of civil service or other government and public sector body work.

Seventh, I sought assurances that there will be no cuts to facility time for union representatives. During the recent Cabinet Office consultation PCS sought to reach a general agreement to cover reviews of facility time arrangements across the non-devolved civil service. We have emphasised the beneficial role trade unions play in the workplace and that cuts in facility time do not have any economic or managerial justification.

The assurances we seek are achievable given sufficient will to do so on both sides. PCS members deserve such assurances. They will not accept detrimental changes to their terms and conditions or threats to their employment imposed without negotiations and consideration of the alternatives.

Even at this late stage we remain open to talks on these issues at any time, and hope to resolve these disputed issues through negotiation. I repeat my request that you set out a timetable for negotiations on the proposals I have made in this letter. I would be happy to meet to discuss such a timetable.

I am writing to the heads of devolved governments and NDPBs to raise the same demands, as well as yourself.

Yours sincerely

Mark Serwotka

General Secretary 

 

 

Response from Kerslake 31 January, 2013

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your letter dated 18 January which restates the issues you raised with me in your letter dated 17 December 2012.

I can only reiterate the position which I set out in my previous reply to you dated 19 December. I am extremely disappointed that PCS are again pushing for strike action which benefits no one, and damages the services your members deliver to the pubic.

Further to this, I would add that the Government took the tough decision to freeze public sector pay for two years, while protecting those earning under £21,000 by increasing their pay by at least £250 per year.

The final propsed agreements on pension reform have been set out following more than a year of intensive discussions with trades unions. These reforms will ensure that public sector pensions will remain among the very best available and that they can be sustained for future generations.

Because we want to attract the best staff we will remain an employer with good terms and conditions. However, while there has been significant recent change in pay and pensions, there are other terms and conditions that have not been updated and are now outliers compared to best practice. That is why departments are currently reviewing their terms and conditions with the aim of making and (sic) changes that are necessary to ensure a modern employment offer is available to all.

I would urge you to re-consider this ill judged move towards industrial action, which can only serve to damage the reputation of the Civil Service, and the interests of your members you seek to represent.

Bob Kerslake

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013

Reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot – 4) Performance Management

vote-yes-cropIn what is one of the most extraordinary pieces of timing yet achieved by the Cabinet Office and, more specifically, HMRC’s Executive Committee (ExCom) today, the day the PCS national ballot over pay, pensions and terms and conditions opened, members found out about the proposed Performance Management changes.

Why is it extraordinary? It’s a move which has angered people from the bottom to the top of the Civil Service, anyone who manages or is managed by somebody (ie. all of us) and anybody who has any sense of fair play.

The Proposals

At the minute we are judged on our individual performance against a number of different factors. If we do brilliantly we are given a ‘Top’ marking, if we are average we get a ‘Good’ marking and if, for whatever reason, we aren’t cutting the mustard we get an ‘Improvement Needed’ marking.

Although there are many, many disputes over the markings and the somewhat prescriptive nature of our performance agreements it’s ostensibly a pretty fair system.

The Cabinet Office has decided that it’s just too fair and decided to do away with it.

They have told departments that in future there will be Performance Marking quotas:

  • Exceeded: 20% of staff
  • Achieved: 70% of staff
  • Must improve: 10% of staff

It’s those percentages that are the problem.

  • Managers could be put in the impossible position of having to mark perfectly capable staff as a ‘Must improve’ just so they can meet their quota. They might have to mark excellent members of staff as ‘Good’ to avoid going over their ‘Exceeded’ quota.
  • Their staff could be pitted against each other in an attempt to avoid being among the dreaded 10%.
  • There are implications beyond the marking itself: there are pay implications and a ‘Must improve’, whether justified or not, could hasten a member’s journey towards the door and the dole queue.
  • There is also the concern that the senior grades could take the lion’s share of the ‘Exceeded’ and the most junior grades the ‘Must improves’.

The current percentage of ‘Improvement Needed’ markings is just 1.6%. Where are the other 8.4% going to come from?

Also, if the Cabinet Office really wants to cut Trade Union facility time this is a funny way of going about it: reps and managers would be inundated with appeals and personal cases.

If the terms and conditions issues seemed a bit distant this should focus everybody’s minds.

If fighting this isn’t worth a YES|YES what is?

For more information read BB34/13 and BB35/13: HMRC performance management ‘proposals’ – oppose detrimental changes (PCS Bootle Taxes site)

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013

Reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot – 3) Privatisation

vote-yes-cropAlthough we’ve mentioned privatisation a lot on this site it is still largely the elephant in the room. Everything that is happening to civil servants and the wider public sector can be traced back to a desire to privatise us.

From the Open Public Services white paper to Civil Service Reform specifying they want our T&Cs to be what a ‘good, modern employer would provide’ to the attacks on trade union facilities the government is making it very clear that privatisation is the motivation behind everything.

Why is privatisation such a bad thing?

For us, the staff:

  • Even lower pay,
  • Even worse terms and conditions,
  • Even worse pensions,
  • Even less job security,
  • Knowing that the service you provide is no longer the reason you’re working, it’s just a means to an end: profit.

You might think that you’re protected from this by the nature of your work or your contract, or that if you are privatised you will be protected by TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment), but:

  • No matter what job you do you could do the same job, in the same building, under the same manager, for a different employer. Staff in HMRC’s DMB (Debt Management and Banking) have recently been told that the private sector doesn’t have the capacity to take our work. If we were sold off we would be that capacity.
  • Council workers across Britain are finding themselves given notice and told to sign up to private sector contracts, often with worse pay, T&Cs etc, to get their old jobs back. The previous government made it easier for the current government to do this to us when they attacked the Civil Service Compensation Scheme,
  • The government is attacking TUPE regulations, along with many other employee rights, under the guise of cutting ‘red tape’.
  • Privatisation is already sneaking in to HMRC through ‘building capacity’ trials.

For the public:

  • Taxpayers’ money goes to private interests rather than public services, private interests which regularly are regularly based off-shore, thereby avoiding tax,
  • Wages are surpressed as private companies minimise costs to maximise profits, causing experienced staff to leave, reducing the money going in to and sustaining local economies, reducing the tax take and, more urgently, increasing reliance on state benefits as taxpayers subsidise the low wages,
  • Vital services are cut, again to maximise profit,
  • The public sector still costs pretty much what it did before with the difference going to directors and shareholders rather than staff and services.

If you want examples look no further than the railways and energy companies. And, of course, there’s the properties that HMRC sold to, and now lease from, the off-shored Mapeley.

So a strong YES|YES vote isn’t just about breaking the 1% pay cap, halting the pensions attack and defending our terms and conditions, it’s also about defending our status as public sector workers and defending the public services we provide from privatisation.

Do you want to work for Serco, G4S, A4E, Atos, Citel et al? Do you want to be privatised?

If not, vote YES|YES.

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013

Reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot – 2) to avoid a strike

vote-yes-cropThis might seem counterintuitive but, contrary to the rhetoric of Dacre/Desmond/Murdoch, the Evening Standard, the BBC and our three main political parties, few trade unions actually want to ‘bring Britain to halt’ or cause ‘misery’ for the public.

The primary point of an industrial action ballot is to tell the employer that their staff have had enough and are willing to take action to stand up for themselves. Ideally this then leads to negotiations and an agreement the union can put to their members.

You wouldn’t know it if you rely on the mainstream media for your news but this approach actually works. Here are a few recent victories won on the back of an industrial action ballot:

One of the reasons that PCS have been forced to run the ballot is that the Cabinet Office has refused to negotiate meaningfully with us. A strong YES|YES vote stands a better chance of changing their minds than a weak result on a low turn out.

If members want to overturn the pensions robbery, break the 1% pay cap and retain our terms and conditions we need a strong result as a starting point. Without it we would be considerably weaker.

Don’t waste this opportunity to show the Government that you care enough to make a stand.

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013

 

Reasons to vote YES|YES in the PCS ballot – 1) Turnout

vote-yes-cropThe national PCS ballot for industrial action over pay, pensions and terms and conditions starts on Friday 8th February. There are, as ever, many reasons to vote YES|YES in the ballot. This is the first of three posts covering three of the most important reasons, starting with one which may seem relatively trivial: turnout.

Recent PCS industrial action ballots for national campaigns tend to have a return of between 30-40% with 70-80% voting in favour of strike action. That might not seem too great but compare it to some recent elections:

At the 2010 general election the return was 65.1% but only 36.1% voted Conservative, leaving the party having to turn to the Liberal Democrats to form a government. The Liberal Democrats themselves only won 23.1% of the vote, meaning our current Coalition government has taken power with less than 40% of the electorate voting for either coalition party and nobody voting for the current government.

In the 2012 London Mayoral election the turnout was a mere 38.1% and Boris Johnson won with just 44% of the first preference votes, rising to 51.5% with second preference votes. So Johnson was elected with just over 16% of London’s electorate voting for him. This is the man who has said that trade union industrial action ballots should be discounted unless 50% of all eligible members vote in favour.

The 2012 Police Commissioner Elections only managed a 14.9% turnout.

Despite all of the above a low turnout in our ballot will be used against us. The Coalition government will say that our ballot isn’t the democratic decision of members, accuse us of holding the country to ransom and try to say Labour are in the pockets of trade unions, despite Labour doing little to support us and the Conservative party’s own distinctly undemocratic multi-millionaire and big business donors, the self-appointed Tax Payers’ Alliance and Trade Union Reform Coalition anti-worker lobbying groups and the CBI.

If any of the three major parties were serious about increasing turnout in industrial action ballots they would allow workplace and/or electronic balloting. They’re not serious about it. They want to keep the low turn out stick to beat us with.

Don’t give them the ammunition! When you get your ballot paper make sure you return it.

A show of strength in the ballot will not only be a show of strength for PCS but also for the entire trade union movement, and a show of support for all those others who are fighting, and winning, industrial disputes.

Read more about the campaign and the ballot on the PCS website: Vote Yes 2013