Progress is the group magazine for members in the Land Registry.
Please send your letters and emails to:
Emily Kelly, Fylde Land Registry, union room, Wrea Brook Court, Lytham Road, Warton PR4 1TE or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On 30 November we all stood together with more than 3 million public sector workers across the United Kingdom in the biggest collective action seen since the 1926 general strike.
Strike action is always a last option, but something that PCS members have been compelled to resort to for some years now, as the recipients of the more rabid public sector cuts. We have put up with bogus tactical negotiations which are being touted to the general public to give the impression that meaningful talks have taken place. We have been offered a 15-minute strike, giving us barely time to get a brew. While the government attempts to get its “pound of flesh” by imposing a new pension scheme, with far worse benefits. Controversially Gus O’ Donnell (ex-cabinet secretary) is being allowed to retire at 58 with a pension pot of £2.3 million. We are not ‘all in this together’ are we? We’ve been patient, we’ve co-operated – but enough is enough if we don’t fight back they will be back for more.
The climate has altered drastically since the last edition of Progress. We have witnessed many forms of civil unrest from looting and rioting to occupations and marches, all a symptom of major socio-political problems and public anger over the widening class divide. Ill conceived austerity measures across the world impinge on those who have so little and not affect those who have too much.
And still our media chooses to deny us the real story preferring to veto images of the huge Wall Street peaceful occupation, instead choosing to blast us with images of a dying Gadaffi and mob brutality. Even locally the papers don’t always present the real story. On the last strike day, we had a local photographer visit the picket and take lots of friendly photos of us, only to find later that the picture the paper chose to run was one of a Greek protester being hosed down with water?
In this edition of Progress there are articles on our recent union reps training event, the day of action on 30 November, an update on LR matters, a report on disability awareness month and a green article on campaign for climate change.
Lesley Hibberd, Croydon office reports
Education has always been an important part of the union rep’s role, it enables them to develop the confidence and skills they need to effectively represent their members in the workplace.
Land Registry PCS group organise an annual school for reps, this year’s event was held on 18 – 20 October 2011, a mix of 18 new and experienced reps attended.
The school covered handling personal cases. As more and more initiatives are being brought in by senior management, i.e. visions and values, performance and innovation, there has been a marked increase in sick absence. It is important that reps are equipped to deal with the consequential personal cases and know where to obtain information and support.
There was a session on public speaking something that every rep finds a daunting prospect, at conference, at members’ and public meetings and when handling the
press. Campaigning was also included in the session to make sure that reps were ready to go back to their branches and discuss a campaign action plan. PCS is a member-led union and growing in numbers every day. Organising and recruitment is an integral
part of every rep’s role, this was reflected throughout the sessions, the need to consult, to recruit and to involve members in every part of our campaigns.
A session chaired by Tony Conway our group secretary, explained the ongoing key discussions we are having with management. It is vital to arm our reps with up to date information relating to our jobs, pay and pensions as there are many areas of conflict.
The school was a great success and reps left feeling inspired and prepared for the tough times ahead.
As a new rep I was very nervous and apprehensive before starting the course and was worried that I would not be able to keep up or add much to group discussions. However, everybody was very welcoming and helpful and I soon settled in. The highlight of the week for me was delivering my first speech in public – very nerve-wracking standing in front of a knowledgeable group of people many of whom have vast experience of this.
I was also very impressed with all the hard work and dedication, often at detriment to themselves, of all the reps I was quite amazed at the burden of responsibility reps shoulder when handling personal cases, especially of those members who are facing dismissal.
Claire Walker, Weymouth office
In October I attended the group’s school – three days of hard work, considering the issues that face staff now.
On my return I discovered that Mark Boyle had been appointed, by the minister of state as the independent chair of the Land Registry board a decision taken as a consequence of the ATP recommendations. Now, I have worked as a civil servant, for a body that also had an independent chair, the difference is, that chair had experience in the organisation’s employment and training processes.
Looking at Mark Boyle’s resumé I cannot see any background in land registration, what we do see is a background in out-sourcing – (the operational efficiency programme for example and companies he is associated with, such as Rentokil, which have bid for public sector work). PCS has requested a meeting and we shall certainly wish to question him to ensure that your jobs, terms and conditions are valued.
Likewise over the last 12 months we have been faced with severance schemes, added workloads, a pay freeze, reviews of classification, lean techniques – all reducing costs by getting more for less at our expense, as well as outsourcing non-core work such as regional file stores. In addition to these, cuts in our pensions, (which are seen as a major barrier to private companies taking on public services), will make Land Registry more attractive to the private sector.
So as we await the revisiting of the feasibility study, by government, we can see that things are part of a package and we must therefore remain vigilant, continuing to campaign for good, well paid, properly-resourced jobs to remain in the public sector. This means getting involved locally with trades councils and-anti cuts campaigns, supporting our group and national campaigns, going to union meetings – getting involved, and about recruiting that non-member that sits near you. The more members we have the stronger PCS is and the better chance we have of defending our jobs and terms and conditions.
Julie Young, ex PCS Land Registry group president has now left the Land Registry, to take up her new role as PCS northern regional organiser, this is a brief look at Julie’s involvement with PCS and a big thank you from all of the members and reps Julie has helped over the years.
Julie started working at Durham Land Registry in 1988, she joined CPSA on her first day at work.
She became involved with CPSA straight away and has been heavily involved in the union since.
Julie became branch chair at Durham and remained in that post until just a couple of years ago when she took secondment to PCS.
Julie was very influential in the union on issues such as domestic violence, childcare and abortion rights and produced the Land Registry group “Women’s Charter”, Julie has made some rousing speeches at national conference particularly on abortion rights. She was a GEC member and the chair of the equality committee for many years before stepping up to become the group president.
Julie’s commitment to PCS and the membership is unquestionable; she has represented most members at Durham over the years and assisted many members and reps from across the group.
Fortunately she is still involved with PCS but our loss is the northern regions gain.
Her new job not only involves organisation, recruitment and campaigns but also representing members and negotiating on their behalf in the smaller departments.
A big thank you to Julie from all members and reps she has helped over the years and we would like to wish her good luck for the future.
This edition of Progress coincides with the biggest strike for generations. Head teachers and the most senior civil servants will join in a clear illustration of how serious the situation is.
We are also due to witness at last the triumphant return of the Stone Roses. At the press conference, Ian Brown, made much of the fact that dire political times were met with great music.
We have, as well, witnessed a change in our parliamentary democracy, with the humble e-petition enabling House of Commons debates. One positive effect was the emotional debate on the Hillsborough disaster, calling for the release of all related government papers. The exposure of the shameful role and lies of the gutter press received massive publicity, that has to be a good thing.
On the down side, I watched, the entire fivehour debate on the EU referendum. Those in support of the motion, mainly Tories, gave passionate speeches about how a referendum would restore democratic accountability. When you scratch the surface, however, you see that the real motivation surrounds their hatred of, for example, the Working Time Directive and the Human Rights Convention. Many argued that this ‘red tape’ was at the heart of the current economic problems and that it was strangling British industry – what utter rubbish. How will forcing people to work in excess of 48 hours per week, help the worsening unemployment situation? These people are simply arguing that their friends, the captains of industry, should be further allowed to trample on workers’ rights and increase their own profits.
The signs, however, are positive. More people are actively beginning to fight back. The 30 November strike and inevitable subsequent action will be widely supported. Occupations of financial institutions are spreading throughout the globe and political engagement of ordinary working people is on the rise.
What the next few months will yield is unclear but PCS members in the Land Registry will play an active part in shaping the future political
landscape for the better.
By Kim Lowes, Durham office
By the time this edition goes out to members we will have all experienced the largest, co-ordinated industrial action ever seen in the UK with potentially millions of workers taking strike action on 30 November.
PCS has been at the forefront of the campaign for an alternative to government cuts. Strike action by PCS members in the Land Registry alongside other union members in June, saw workers put the “cuts to public sector pensions” at the top of the national agenda. The campaign has grown to such a level that more than 20 trade unions took part in the action on 30 November, including the FDA for the first time.
No doubt you will have seen many myths (well lies) being peddled in the media, about your pensions.
Let’s cut through some of the myths Public sector pensions are:
• Affordable and sustainable – The Hutton report, National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee of MPs have all proved this.
• Not gold plated – the average public sector pension is no more generous than comparable schemes in the private sector. According to the Hutton report only one in three private sector workers have a pension at all, but where one exists the average pension is about £5860. The average public sector pension is about £5,600 (with the average PCS pension about £4,200). The failure of the public sector to provide affordable pensions for workers will only cost the country more in the long run with many more pensioners having to claim benefits. The PCS campaign is about fair pensions for all, both public and private sector.
• Essential for combating pensioner poverty – The average PCS member’s pension is worth £80 a week. When this is added to the basic state pension this puts it just £4 over the official poverty line.
The average increase will be 3.2% but it will be applied differently depending on how much you earn. For those earning £15,001 to £21,000, contributions will double. For those earning £21,000 or more they will treble. But let’s not forget, this is not just about paying more, civil servants will also have to work longer (in my case seven years longer) and will receive a reduced pension.
By 2014, contributions for those earning more than £21,000 could increase by as much as 6%.
To put a more human slant on the argument, take my own situation.
I joined the Land Registry in 1989 at the ripe old age of 16. I am now 38, an RE2(U) on the RE2(U) Max (just over £29,000). I am in the Classic pension scheme.
The PCS pensions calculator’s message is quite stark. I will have to work seven years longer than in the current pension scheme. This means I will have to work until I am 67 (some 51 years service). My contributions will increase by nearly £80 a month. I will lose over £1,000 per year from the RPI/CPI indexation change and stand to lose anywhere in the region of £57,000 if I work until I am over 65, more if I choose to retire earlier.
The government has been quite clear about where the extra 3.2% (on average) contributions will go, and it’s not towards the affordability of our pensions.
It’s going towards paying off the deficit. A deficit not caused by Land Registry staff nor by other public sector workers but caused by the bankers. Bankers, who incidentally have seen no cuts to their pay, pensions or bonuses. Bankers who will earn more in one month than my “gold-plated” pension pays all year.
To rub salt into the wound, as I write this article the BBC is running a story announcing that pay for the directors of the UK’s top businesses has risen by 50% on average, over the past year. It is utterly disgusting that these “untouchable” people can earn obscene amounts of money while we face what is, in essence, a tax on the public sector. Can you imagine the outcry if the government suggested that everyone had to pay an extra 3.2% tax?
There has never been a more important time to be a part of the trade union movement in this country and the PCS members in the Land Registry are vital within that movement. All members can play their part.
Recruit non-members, our negotiating team is only as strong as our membership.
Take part in activities advertised by your committee. Local public services alliances, trades councils, meetings, and demonstrations.
Become a branch rep or a branch distributor, even a little assistance with leaflets and distribution can really help the branch committee.
Talk to your reps, keep them informed and more importantly support the committee by attending branch meetings.
As you can see “doing nothing” is not an option. We have shown that public sector workers are not the easy target the government and media would have everyone believe. PCS nationally is continuing to press ministers for genuine negotiations and hopefully the display of unity shown on 30 November will force the hand of the government.
Please continue to support your union.
By Dave Lunn, PCS Land Registry vice president
At the time of writing the national focus for PCS is quite rightly on delivering support for strike action on 30 November and the ongoing campaign in defence of pensions, pay and jobs.
However, alongside these national issues, PCS in Land Registry is dealing with a whole raft of Land Registry (LR) specific issues, which could have a major impact on our working lives and future careers. The following article gives a brief update on these key areas:
PCS met with officials from BIS (our new sponsor department) in October. Discussions took place around the PDC consultation process and progress of the LR FS. In this meeting we were able to identify what the government is seeking to do with public data and what the potential implications might be for LR. We have subsequently lodged a formal response to the government’s PDC consultation exercise.
It now looks like there will be no decision taken on the future of LR, at least until the government is clear about where it is going with the PDC. This means that consideration of private sector involvement in LR, will not now take place until the newyear. Our group president has written to Edward Davey MP (LR Minister) to seek clarifications on all of this and to seek reassurance that PCS will be properly consulted before any decisions are taken. PCS has also met with the shadow LR spokesperson. We will update members once we learn more.
LR is currently consulting PCS about proposed changes to the classification guide.
PCS has real concerns about the potential impact of these proposals, which seek to downgrade considerable amounts of casework. In particular we are concerned about the potential impact on jobs and increased work pressures. The likelihood is that many members will face capability procedures as significant technical points are downgraded, becoming compulsory core elements for lower grades.
We are also concerned that the ‘enabling system’, which LR plans to introduce will lead to regular out of grade working. This would not only mask the true staffing levels required, it would also minimise future progression opportunities. Quite simply, if LR can get work processed on the cheap at a lower grade, why would they ever need or want to progress or promote anyone? Of course a cheaper “more flexible” workforce would also leave LR far more vulnerable and attractive to a private sector bidder.
We will continue joint negotiations with LR alongside our FDA colleagues and hope to make significant progress. We will ballot members on the final proposals and if significant progress is not made it is likely that we will recommend rejection with a subsequent statutory ballot for industrial action.
PCS and its predecessor unions have previously taken successful industrial action over LR downgrading proposals firstly as part of the wider issues dispute in 1983 and more recently as part of the operational dispute in 2005, which resulted in the revised current classification guide. This shows that
ampaigning works and actiongets results.
Members in LR are currently subject to a two-year pay freeze imposed by the government. Despite this PCS has met with LR management and argued that the freeze only relates to the cost of living element of pay and that progression should still be paid, as we believe it is contractual. Other civil service departments have successfully argued to retain progression. We have also pushed management to redistribute the performance pay pot more fairly. Regrettably, despite the reasonable case put forward by PCS, LR management has taken the decision not to pay progression and to only pay performance pay to 13% of staff receiving Box 1 markings, leaving the overwhelming majority of staff with what amounts to a pay cut, as inflation soars above 5%. During November, PCS will be holding a round of meetings with members to explain the full detail of this year’s offer and why it has been rejected.
Discussions continue on working practices with a view to reaching formal agreement on how teams will operate within LR. The intention is to enable teams to function efficiently and effectively without members being subject to unreasonable work pressures or unreasonable restrictions on leave. Importantly, the agreement will apply to all LR staff and not just those in operations. If agreement is reached, members will be balloted to formalise the agreement.
The performance and innovation (P&I) pilots in Gloucester and Weymouth operations and Nottingham HR are being evaluated towards the end of November. The initial evaluation will be looking at whether LR should and/or can roll P&I out beyond the pilot teams. PCS will be interviewed as part of the evaluation process and will be lodging a submission setting out issues identified during the consultation process.
Local PCS branches will be meeting with members from the pilot teams and members views will be fed into our submission.
Should LR propose to roll P&I out further, PCS expect to be formally consulted on the ultimate decision. If following this consultation LR decides to implement P&I , consultation would continue and we will aim to ensure that the protections that we are seeking to enshrine in the WPA are enforced and that consultation with the trade unions is not bypassed by the P&I process.
Wendy Hayton, Durham office reports
After a very successful launch in 2010 Disability History Month is in its second year and runs from 22 November to 22 December 2011. Its creation provides an annual focus on the struggle for equality and human rights, for disabled people.
Each year has a specific theme and this year’s is “Celebrating our struggle for equality”. Historically, achievements by disabled people are often hidden as they do not fit the “normal” stereotype. Rarely do they get to speak and be heard, but this year as many PCS members know, they did make themselves heard with events such as the very successful ‘Hardest Hit’ marches held throughout the country.
The struggle to gain rights and make equality a daily reality is very relevant for our disabled members. This year also saw the ‘Red Tape’ challenge to the rights granted by the Equality Act 2010, which prompted over 7,000 comments on the website www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk
With many newspapers promulgating negative publicity about benefit fraud, history month gives an opportunity to promote a positive attitude towards disabled people and to provide the public with a better understanding of the social barriers they face. There have been improvements in recent years but the attitude, often fostered by the media, is still largely hostile.
The month is also about recognising the multiple identities disabled people display. The word disabled can be used to describe a myriad of impairments. Often a disabled person may also suffer other inequalities like sexism, racism and homophobia, all adding to their distress and isolation.
Branches can do a lot to promote disability awareness: produce a newsletter with the aim of promoting a better understanding of disability, why not think about writing an article for your local branch?
This initiative is welcomed and supported by PCS so why not get involved. Do not let this year’s Disability History Month pass without doing something.
There are many events happening right across the country. Please check out www.ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com for more details on what’s happening in your region and how you might get involved.
We can no longer ignore the frequency of extreme weather and the disasters it can cause – such as flooding, droughts, crop failure and wildfire. Scientists believe this is because of climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases – mainly from burning fossil fuels to provide us with energy to heat our homes and workplaces and to provide electricity for lighting, cooking and transport.
Yet it’s the poorest and most vulnerable around the world – such as in Africa where the United Nations climate talks are being held at the end of this year - who have contributed least to the problem who are suffering the most. So the idea of ‘climate justice’ is about recognising that climate change isn’t only an environmental problem: it’s also an issue of social justice.
The developed world’s ‘solutions’ to climate change, such as biofuels made from crops and ‘unconventional’ methods of drilling for oil are only making things worse, displacing communities all around the world. So at the UN climate talks in South Africa at the end of the year, indigenous peoples will be fighting behind the scenes for the rights of communities in the face of corporate interests and government inertia.
Trade unions and environmental groups in South Africa this year launched a ‘one million climate jobs’ campaign – which follows the model of the UK campaign of the same name in aiming to address both climate change and unemployment through the creation of a million ‘climate jobs’.
This November the UK-based Campaign against Climate Change, with the support of PCS, organised a speaker tour for South African climate activist and film-maker Rehad Desai. The tour provides an opportunity for Rehad to explain to trade union, student and environmental activists in the UK the impact climate change is having on people in South Africa and about the climate and social justice movements there.
The speaker tour will be followed by a ‘stand up for climate justice’ event on 3 December – the global day of action on climate change – and will include a march and rally in central London.
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