The aim of a picket line is to ensure that every PCS member supports the strike by staying away from work and that the reasons for the strike are explained to every potential member.
This ten point guide aims to help you plan a successful day of action
This is crucial for organising and building for a successful day of action. The committee should consist of one person from each dept/floor/section who can provide information on the strength of feeling in each area and develop a plan to get support from weaker areas.
Every dispute is the members’ dispute. Hold meetings or approach members face- to-face to get volunteers to help on the picket line. Get mobile phone numbers of all members on the picket line. Aim to get the support of workers not involved in the dispute - eg through using solidarity stickers, donations to the hardship fund.
Hold a discussion about logistics. How many entrances do we need to cover? How many placards do we need? What time do we need to set up the picket line? Think about shift working. Do we have experienced reps to compliment newer reps on each picket line? How are we involving workers from different employers in our workplace who are not involved in our dispute?
Any successful day of action needs effective communication to reinforce our message and win support. A lot of what is reported in the media is fudged and may not represent the real facts surrounding the dispute. Leaflets aimed at the public are an important way of gaining sympathy.
In the trade union movement, branches often offer messages of support to fellow workplaces when they are involved in industrial action.
Tell other union branches about our planned strike action. Messages of support can then be conveyed to members - this reinforces our action and gives members a boost in knowing they aren’t alone.
Establishing and collecting for a strike fund is an integral part of picket line activity. It’s an important political tool - the more money you collect, the more solid evidence you have to show how successful the day went. This sends a powerful message to management - it shows that other workers are committing financially to show solidarity with your dispute.
Make sure everyone has a role to play – covering entrances, talking to local media, making tea/coffee, handing out leaflets to the public or building up for the rally later on. These are just some examples, each workplace will have different challenges but the main thing is – enjoy it!
It is never easy approaching people who intend to cross a picket line. Only by arming yourself with the facts about the dispute and asking them open questions to gauge their opinions, can you change their point of view and perhaps be successful in stopping them going into work.
Be polite and don’t be aggressive - if management think you have intimidated staff, they will use this against you. Be aware that if non-members join PCS on the day they don’t have to go into work that day.
Try to get as many people as possible along to the rally. Rallies give the strike day a real boost through trade union speakers and activists reinforcing the reasons why the action was taken. They are also a great way to unite members and let them see they are part of a fighting union.
Hold a meeting of the co-ordinating committee to assess how the day went. Ideally a workplace meeting - or meeting off the premises with members - should be organised to report this analysis and get feedback from members.
This will give your branch an opportunity to build from the action and perhaps identify new activists. Remember: a picket line is only part of a dispute. It really matters how you follow it up - you don’t want to lose momentum!
This ten point guide originally appeared in the young members' newsletter (Autumn 2007)
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