Action rolls on across groups
After Woolwich we will not be divided Women chainmakers festival
IDS ducks visit after threat of walk out
Article appearing in the Birmingham Post 29th April 2013 by Jon Griffin Government cabinet member Iain Duncan-Smith has been accused of dodging angry anti-cuts protesters after pulling out of a visit to Smethwick Jobcentre. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union rounded on the Work and Pensions Secretary after his scheduled visit to the jobcentre was called off last Thursday. The union had warned that members would stage a protest at Governent cutbacks to coincide with Mr Duncan Smith’s visit. They targeted the minister after he claimed he could survive on £53 a week “if he had to” in a huge row over benefit cutbacks. He said in a radio interview: “I have been unemployed twice in my life so I have already done that.“I know what it is like to live on the breadline.” But Andrew Lloyd, Midlands Regional Secretary for the PCS, said: “Mr Duncan Smith avoided being confronted by protesters. “Instead of seeing the Smethwick protesters he was sneaked into the Child Support Agency in Dudley without virtually any staff.” “Staff at Smethwick had been told that Mr Duncan Smith was visiting to thank them for being a ‘high-performing’ office because of the number of benefit claimants it gets off benefits. "As well as ducking the Smethwick protesters, Mr Duncan Smith is developing a habit of ducking issues. "Recently nearly half a million people signed an online petition asking him to live on £53 a week for a year, in response to his claim that he could live on benefits.” Mr Lloyd said Jobcentre workers had threatened to tear up £25 Marks and Spencer vouchers received for getting claimants off benefits as part of a DWP ‘carrot and stick’ approach. He said: “The carrot is a small one and a number of PCS members from Smethwick were considering tearing up their vouchers in front of IDS to show their feelings over the matter.” Mr Duncan Smith’s Parliamentary office failed to respond to requests for a comment.
Lincoln TUC “unity against racism—fight the cuts not each other” demonstration 8th June
PCS Midlands Regional Secretary
They say seven days in Politics is a lifetime, in PCS it seems like it is at least one life! As I write this, in the last week, we have seen the following; the group action from HMRC and DWP last Wednesday (5th June), the Justice Sector action (7th and 10th June), and the Chainmakers Event on Saturday (8th June). Reports of the Group strikes are that they have at least held their own, and in some places got even more support. At the Rally in Birmingham for the HMRC / DWP strike, Fran Heathcote the DWP Group President said, “I visited picket lines in Birmingham today, and the determination of the members is there for all to see.” A member from HMRC said that, “actually in some sites the action was better supported than before.” Geoff Dexter, PCS Learning Organiser and Education officer, concurred with this point, “I was at HMRC City Centre house for today and the last action, and whilst it was not perfect, the pickets get stronger every time I go.” There was also a reps rally held for the Justice Sector strike last Friday, and Martyn Collins from the MOJ GEC said, “there is no question about it members in MOJ are behind the action, they know taking action is the right thing to do.” We took one aspect of the National campaign to the Chainmakers, under the banner of “Britains need a pay rise”. Loads of members of the public that visited our stall said that they couldn’t agree more with that slogan, and also that they supported our action. Chainmakers the TUC event in the Midlands (though it felt like a joint event between PCS and the TUC) again improved on last year, not just in terms of numbers, but also community engagement. This community engagement was made possible by the efforts of the PCS admin team, particularly Jean Cooper. I have to say that if every union had a ‘Jean’ then Chainmakers would at least rival all the other union festivals across the UK. In regard to my opening line, we have also had another interesting event in the last seven days, one Mr Steve Battlemuch was elected as Councillor for Wollaton West, Nottingham in a by-election. Steve who was elected for Labour, turned a 800 deficit into a 600 majority. I know from personal experience that Steve received help for his campaign not just from Labour party members but others as well. I believe everyone in PCS will be pleased that someone of Steve‘s calibre has been elected. We all know that Steve will do what he does in his ‘day’ job and stand up for those with just causes.
Midlands Regional Committee 2013/14 elect
Chair : Sian Ruddick Vice Chairs: Jawid Iqbal Steve Thorley Mike Veric Committee Members: Martyn Collins Joe Foster Jill Holland Surjit Kumar Harminder Lothian Mick Mace Paul Martin Mark Page Martin Page Viv Perkins Pete Rofe Dave Vickers
The Women Chainmakers’ Festival
...celebrating the anniversary of when the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath struck, won and made the first minimum wage a reality
Photo courtesy of Nikki Cooper DollyMix Media www.dollymix-media.co.uk
The Women Chainmakers is a family festival to commemorate the women who took a stand against being duped out of a minimum wage for the chains they made in the their backyard wash houses. The first commemoration was In the 18th and early 19th century organised at the Chainmakers’ Cradley Heath was the centre of chain Monument in Mary Macarthur Memorial making. This was a cottage industry, and Gardens complete with a re-enactment many heavy and industrial chains were from key moments in the Womens’ made by women in sheds in their back struggle. Jean Cooper from the PCS yard. This was heavy hard and dangerous Midlands office oversaw an expanded work. A woman had to hammer up to community tent. Thanks to her hard 5,000 links a week to earn the equivalent work and personal commitment it saw of 25p. many more local organisations and The women raised their children traders on the site than before. whilst making the chains. In 1909 the Local artists performed in the Left- Government introduced legislation to field marquee, and there were new increase the wages in exploitative trades attractions such as the Birmingham like chain makers, but as most of the University Archery Club, thanks to Paul women could not read the employers Photo: Nikki Cooper DollyMix Media www.dollymix-media.co.uk Hawkins, also from the regional office. tried to trick the women by getting them There was also a martial arts to sign an opt out so they did not have to TUC President, Lesley Mercer headlined display from young people and a paper increase their wages. the speakers and led the second banner chain produced by children amongst The women that refused to sign procession along Cradley Heath High dozens of other exciting activities and were told there was no work for them. Street to the festival. engagements in the family tent. The Women went on strike, and their PCS activists and staff handed out cause was filmed by pathe news and literature on our stall on the theme of shown in 600 cinemas in the country. “Britain needs a pay rise” along with our The chainmakers not only won alternative campaign booklets on their rights October 1910. After the welfare and austerity. We also collected women's victory, there was still sufficient dozens of signatures for the Shrewsbury in the strike fund to build a Workers' pickets campaign. Institute, a two-storey building known as the "Tute."
The ninth Women Chainmakers festival took place on Bearmore Park, Cradley Heath on Saturday 8th June. The festival is growing year on year.
Photo: Nikki Cooper DollyMix Media www.dollymix-media.co.uk
Making the most of strike days
As strikes rolled on across groups, Steve Battlemuch, Midlands Regional Organiser, explores how to make the most of strike days.
APEX Court reps from ACAS and Natural England join Independent Living Fund strikers on their picket line in solidarity
entrance. The more members on the picket line the more enjoyable it is likely to be. Some branches bring a bar – b – que Hopefully they go on strike because they believe in the issues to feed the pickets, many have leaflets aimed at non members we are campaigning on. They may have voted Yes or No – but and members going in, some have collection buckets for the for many members they will not have voted at all but are open hardship fund, some stay just long enough to cover the time to persuasion to join the action. We can’t get away from the fact staff come to work whilst others stay much longer to leaflet the that some members join the strike – yes from a supportive public. We need to make members aware that picketing can be position but seeing it as a day away from work that they can do fun and not something off a TV documentary from a 1980’s other things, spend time with families etc. Our job as activists is miners strike (although having stood on many NUM picket lines to persuade these members – as many as possible – to be active I can say they truly were an interesting experience) with PCS on the day, either on the picket line or doing other things. It’s this issue of what can be done on the strike day that Overall I believe we need to use the picket line to talk to people will determine if we can persuade members to join us in activity going in – talk not yell – with the aim of trying to persuade them of the cause we are striking for. Some reps may feel it’s not on the day. worth talking to some members / non members who regularly 2. How active should the picket line be? cross picket lines but I would say try, try and try again. I would have leaflets too, membership forms and a bucket for donations As active as possible is the short answer. to the hardship fund. Traditionally we hold a picket line from early in the morning – with the aim of stopping the post going in and hopefully talking 3. What should be done for the rest of the strike day? to any members that are intending to break the strike and try to Traditionally we have held a lunchtime rally which means that persuade any non members to join the Union those pickets normally have a couple of hours to kill waiting for We therefore need a good turnout – enough to cover every the rally to start – going for a collective breakfast could pass the
1. Why do members go on strike?
R&C picket, Castle Meadow Nottingham 5th June regional strike
time but in reality many use this time to slip off home or go shopping. Why not use this time to do some public leafleting and petitioning in a shopping area? In the recent DWP and HMRC strike the Nottingham branches did just this and they really enjoyed it. They did this instead of holding a rally where in reality they could have just been speaking to themselves. Public lunchtime rallies work best with the maximum amount of people involved, especially when other unions are involved too. Having a PCS only event with small numbers can be dispiriting sometimes. So to conclude try to do something public that involves people and makes a difference. Set clear times where people can join you if they have not come picketing. If your MP is in town that day and is supportive (rare I know) then use them, if not supportive visit them or their office and take the local paper and radio with you! Regional office can help with these plans.
The media joins Selly Oak JCP picket as horns mark the start of the walk out
Let’s not see strike days as a day off but as a day of campaigning.
Nottingham Budget Day public strike rally
Birmingham Trades Council joins City Centre House picket
PCS Midlands Regional Chair The Next Phase of the Campaign
Protests on 27th June 2013
Land Registry, Nottingham picket 31st May
R&C East Midlands and Nottingham DWP
Nottingham Parliament Street DWP picket
The next part of the National campaign will see protests across the country on the 27th June. We all need to make sure these protests build on the action we have taken so far. Full details of the events are not yet known, but what I will say is the protests on the 30th November 2012 were a resounding success in many workplaces. It did a number of things. It allowed members to get together and send a message to the employer they were hacked off with the way they were being treated, and of course members didn’t sacrifice a penny. We should be proud of the action we have taken so far; 2 ½ days in a couple of months is more than most unions take in a decade. I am proud of my union and the members and the way in which we refuse to be ‘bossed’ around by this government. The protests will coincide with the start of Teachers union strikes, other unions are also considering their own action. The FBU and the CWU are either in the middle of action or holding a ballot. It is obvious to say, but we should link up with other unions as much as we can. The Teachers strikes will happen in our region in September / October, the NUT above all has been very supportive to us both nationally and regionally. I was pleased to hear that Kit Armstrong NUT regional secretary spoke at our rally in Birmingham last week. As we go to print on our newsletter, Unison local government is also balloting their members over a 1% pay increase offer, if rejected Unison has said they will move to a ballot for action! Finally, can I say to any doubters out there that our campaign is not working, just look at how the employers and government have reacted to it. They have tried to use injunctions, taken 3 hours 42 minute deductions when some have only be out for a few hours, used all the propaganda they could to derail the action. This proves the action is hurting them, otherwise they would ignore it! Finally, finally, whilst personally I do not condone bad language I have heard that there are dozens of members and members of the public wanting to buy a drink for the mystery claimant who spotted IDS. After the minister avoided Smethwick Job centre, he was spotted in another West Midlands Job centre, and a claimant told him to in the biblical sense, “go forth and multiply”, and also that he was a “banker”. Apparently IDS was deeply offended by the term ‘banker’ and was hoping that it was a mispronunciation!
Support the protests on the 27th; let’s make sure our campaign wins!
Wolverhampton R&C picket
PCS is spearheading a united campaign against welfare cuts alongside other trade unions and charities.
But this government has launched the biggest attack on the welfare state for generations: Individual benefits for children, housing and health have been frozen, cut or abolished. People with disabilities and unemployed workers face punitive new systems based on conditionality, sanctions and low benefit levels.
Ideological cuts increase costs
Welfare isn’t about ‘strivers’ vs ‘scroungers’.
But you wouldn’t know it from reading the papers. Media coverage usually ignores the large numbers of people who work and rely on benefits. As public servants our members are often poorly paid and many of them depend on these ‘inwork’ benefits to get by. That’s why we’re stepping up our campaign for a welfare system that gives people the support they need and offers real routes out of poverty.
M Action now
Because we believe that this approach is fundamentally wrong our welfare campaigning aims to tackle this government’s divisive and uncaring approach head on. Join us. Take action now to defend welfare.
Extra costs in housing benefits even if just one in six households hit by the bedroom tax is forced to move to private rental
Closing the Independent Living Fund for severely disabled people will also cost more than it saves.
Myth busting leaflets can be found at pcs.org.uk/campaigns/nationalcampaigns/welfare-reform/ index.cfm
£30 billion cuts
Supportive social security systems based on dignity and respect help individuals, families, communities and the wider economy.
After Woolwich: We will not be divided by racists and fascists
to those who would judge an entire religion, race or nationality by the actions of a few and that we will not be divided by racism and fascism. On the 1st of June, Unite Against Fascism mobilised in Leicester, Birmingham and Coventry outnumbering the EDL on all occasions. In London, the PCS national banner was clearly seen as part of the blockade to stop around 100 BNP members reaching the cenotaph along with 1000 anti-fascists. On the 8th of June the people of Sheffield mobilised for a second week in a row. The Unite Against Fascism and One Sheffield Many Cultures outnumbered the EDL by 2000 to 270. But the Midlands played a vital role too on the day confronting the EDL in Lincoln and Shrewsbury. Nick Parker reports “Lincoln TUC mobilised hundreds of local people to oppose the far-right ‘East Anglican Patriots’. Our protest rally was publicised under the slogan ‘Unity Against Racism—Fight the Cuts not each other.’” “Opposition to the far right is part and parcel of building strong trade union organisation to unite working people against cuts and austerity. Lincoln TUC calls for decent jobs, homes and services to combat the social conditions behind the re-emergence of the far right” Against a backdrop of economic crisis and rising Islamophobia these actions are important in driving a wedge between the fascists and those pulled by racist ideas in this period. Thanks to the work of activists across the Midlands the TUC reports that no BNP candidates were victorious in any seat in the local elections in May in the Midlands. This is despite the BNP standing 56% of their candidates nationally in our region.
The English Defence League and the British National Party are seeking to exploit the horrific murder of Lee Rigby by whipping up hatred and division. This has already seen violent reprisals against the Muslim community, including a series of arson attacks on mosques. The government’s hotline is reporting that Islamophobic hate crimes are at ten times their usual rate. Anti fascist activists from different communities, cultures, faiths and trade unions came together swiftly and decisively over the last few weeks. They insisted that we must not give a quarter
Unions make a difference at Birmingham Pride
One tweet from a student teacher following the event simply said
“I now feel confident to go into teaching”
The workshop launched a lesson plan for schools which bring alive LGBT history with an activity linked to the back -to-back houses in Birmingham’s Hurst Street. This was followed by a debate on Section 28: the toxic legacy with a key note speech from Elly Barnes from Schools OUT! In conjunction with the centre, PCS also supported an older persons quiz and a film showing GenSilent about older LGBT people and aging.
PCS union along with the NUT and GMB backed a weekend of free events and activities at the newly opened Birmingham LGBT centre during Pride. The events took place following the Birmingham Pride parade watched by an estimated 70,000 people. Students, trade unionists and community groups joined together to form a Pride is a Protest block chanting “We will not be quiet, Stonewall was a riot!” As all three unions represent members in the Education sector, the
events at the centre started with a workshop on challenging homo, bi and trans phobia in schools. 70 teachers, student teachers, education workers and activists took part in our workshop which proved very popular.