Three PCS branches have been commended at conference for their winning and innovative communication with members.
The PCS communication awards were set up in 2009 to recognise the vital role our reps play in helping members stay informed.
This year’s winner was Companies House, part of BIS Group, whose editorial team produced a series of eye-catching flyers promoting key campaign messages and issues in an entertaining and witty way.
One judge described the flyers as: “Original and fresh with effective calls for action.” The winning team was praised for being engaging and punchy.
Second place went to Nottingham Department for Transport for their “readable and accessible” newsletter Soundbite. “It is very well put together. It is clean and straightforward,” was the consensus.
The award for third place was won by the Identity and Passport Service northwest branch for their “interesting, entertaining and varied” monthly newsletter, North West Graffiti.
“Graffiti reflects the spirit of demonstration and protest. Humour and historic references were effectively used throughout,” summed up one judge.
PCS president Janice Godrich presented the awards. The judging panel included general secretary Mark Serwotka, vice president John McInally, editorial board members and representatives from PCS’s communications department.
Commendations also went to Crown Prosecution Service Northern Branch and Customs House Belfast.
MP John McDonnell, chair of the PCS parliamentary group, was warmly received on Thursday morning, presenting the PCS parliamentary group report before a packed conference.
He opened by saying how being here was like “coming home”. He described the coalition government as “brutal, incompetent and nasty”.
“This government combines a crass, grotesque incompetence with a vengeful nastiness which hasn’t been seen since the last, worst ravings of Thatcher,” he said. “I fear for all of us, especially the most vulnerable in society. Nobody is safe from this government. If this government gets its way nobody will have a secure job, every service will be privatised. You will work till you drop at pension age and then live on a poverty pension.”
He said that Thatcher did not believe in society and for Cameron and Clegg, Thatcher’s children, there is no such thing as the state.
“All that will be left if they get their way is a world of the individual and the private company or corporation. Everything is a commodity to be bought and sold. Everything has a price and that price is determined by the law of the jungle,” said John.
But he saw hope in the members in front of him and the trade union movement they represent.
“It’s you that will turn back the tide of this government,” he added. “We have to expose their every lie and every attack on our people. This is the worst of times but also the best in that we have the opportunity in this struggle to create the kind of society we want. In defying them we can defeat them.”
Thursday began in feisty mood with a general debate attacking the Trade Union Reform Campaign and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude’s announcement of cuts in facility time.
Moving motion A67, which focused on the official relaunch in January of the TURC, Martin Kelsey, from the Home Office Merseyside branch, listed the members who comprise the anti-union group, including the campaign’s chairman, Aidan Burley, sacked by the Tories for attending a Nazi-themed stag party.
“They were chanting ‘Heil Himmler’," he said. “Even the Tories said that was offensive and they set the offensive bar pretty high.”
Seconding the motion was Peter Royle from DCLG Northern and Midlands who defended the work of unions.
“In reality we don’t just benefit our employees and members, we also benefit the employer and the public brass,” he said.
On behalf of the national executive Paula Brown took to the podium to support the motion as a supplement for motion A68 which deplored the Tories' bid to reduce facility time.
“Both motions highlight the seriousness in the attacks that trade unions are facing from a government that simply fails to understand the positive role that trade unions play,” she said. “For every one pound spent on union facility time in the public sector between £3 - £9 is returned in improved benefits. That's apart from the vast amounts of our own personal time that we spend and devote to our trade union work.”
One of the biggest responses of the morning was in response to Tim Megone from Treasury Solicitors, London.
“With local managers and extortionately priced number-crunchers, not to mention the lingering army of consultants, ever more unaccountable, we have an industrial relations landscape that resembles a bunch of five-year-olds re-enacting the Battle of Agincourt to a musical background of free form jazz.”
Both motions were carried with the NEC instructed to counter the attacks.
The situation in Greece was dramatically brought home to members in a speech on Thursday morning by Despina Spanou, the women’s secretary of Greek civil service union ADEDY.
Through a translator Despina told of the terrible conditions ordinary people are currently facing in this beleaguered country.
“Wages are reduced down by 70% in some cases and social security is collapsing,” she said. “Unemployment is heading for 25%; inflation is up to 20%. We are going through a humanitarian crisis that we have never faced during peace time. In Greece there are no rights for workers anymore and, as a result, they are trying to return us to some form of slavery.”
Striking a defiant tone she spoke passionately about the general strikes that have taken place over the past couple of years that have helped cause the radical political change in their country. She also called for a Europe-wide general strike, resulting in cheers and loud applause from conference.
Following her speech delegates spoke up in support of two motions - A97 and A98 - to support European workers fighting austerity and build for co-ordinated strikes, and play a key role with the Public Services International and the European Federation of Public Services Union.
Moving motion A97 Paul McGoay of the IPS London and south branch said: “Despite austerity measures and the attacks being faced people are rebelling. It is key that we fight back together and that is why this motion calls for the NEC to co-ordinate with public sector unions in calling for a 24-hour, Europe-wide strike. International solidarity is a central tenet of our movement. We want to see a Europe that is ours, not theirs.”
Cat Boyd from the Glasgow benefits centre branch told of a recent visit to Athens discovering: “Everyone I met said that Greece is an experiment, that the people are laboratory rats being tested on by the troika. They are seeing how far they can push people before the very fabric of the society ruptures. The fightback against capitalism is escalating and our first battleground is Greece.”
Both motions were carried.
The work of the Fawcett Society was highlighted in a motion on Thursday afternoon proposing affiliation between PCS and the UK’s leading campaign group for equality between women and men.
“When Millicent Garrett Fawcett started her life's work in 1886 campaigning for women’s rights and the right to vote she started a fight that continues and is relevant today,” said Sara Laws of Revenue and Customs, West Wales in moving motion A105. “The Fawcett Society is a campaigning one for women’s rights. We are a campaigning union. They need a louder voice and strength in numbers. PCS can provide that.”
Seconding the motion on behalf of the MoD Yorkshire branch, John Russell, said: “With women forming such a large proportion of PCS membership it is in our interest to support the important work the society is carrying out. We can do this – and have a direct input into the policies and priorities of the Fawcett Society – by not only affiliating at a national level, but also encouraging regions and branches to affiliate and interact with their local Fawcett Society organisation.”
The motion was carried.
The issue of equality was discussed in depth on the conference floor on Thursday afternoon.
On behalf of the Department for Transport London and headquarters regions John Moloney moved the motion A127 instructing the national executive to explore whether valid equal pay claims can now be taken between men and women working in different departments.
“The government controls pay,” he said. “Not only in the situation of controlling pay budgets but clearly individual pay and individual pay increases. That control is further demonstrated in the proposals for regional pay. At some stage we hope to call upon the NEC to launch a strategic pay case – a case of a woman in one department against a man in another department.”
He said if they we were to win that principle it would show that the entire civil service is one equal pay area and they would be one step closer to the goal of equal pay for work of equal value.
Seconding the motion Sue Catten of Department for Work and Pensions in East London reminded conference of the Dagenham strike that triggered the issue of equal pay, but said that - more than 40 years later - women still face a lifetime of earning less than men.
“We need to seriously address this issue and now is the time,” she said. “After all, equality is at the heart of everything we do.”
A few minutes later conference discussed, under motion A129, the disproportionate representation of staff from lower grades, ethnic minorities, and disabled people in disciplinary cases and the health inequalities that exist in the civil service.
Moving the motion Charlie McDonald from DWP East London branch quoted from previous motions and work carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government London branch showing the above was true as well as a report called Fair Society and Healthy Lives which showed the lower a person’s social position the worse was their health.
“And that was a few years ago,” said Charlie. “The austerity policies of the coalition have actually made things worse. The government is being ideological and saying workers, the poorest people, must pay for the economic crisis. We want a full report provided from the NEC to show how we have progressed these motions.”
Both motions were carried.