Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Priorities for public service unionism
In what we all hope are the last weeks of a Government which has shown a more consistently visceral hostility to trade unionism than any of its predecessors since the early nineteenth century, it would be wrong to think that they have taken their foot of the pedal (or, as they like to think, our throats).
Our brothers and sisters in the civil service trade union, PCS, face an almost existential threat from the arbitrary and unilateral withdrawal of "check-off" (or deduction of contributions at source, DOCAS) - the time-honoured system whereby workers pay union subscriptions by deduction from our salary, just like we pay our pensions, tax and national insurance.
It is a testament to the effort of PCS activists that, in a few short months, they have now signed 100,000 members up to the alternative route to paying subscriptions by direct debit (as illustrated by the link above). However, there can be little doubt that this politically inspired assault upon the right of workers to choose what to do with their own earnings will cost PCS thousands of members (and will cost those workers the protection of trade union membership).
UNISON members and activists (and NEC members and national officials!) need to recognise that whole swathes of our membership are as vulnerable to such an attack as are our civil service comrades. The health service could go the way of the Home Office by administrative decision - and local authorities could be constrained by statute from permitting check-off within a couple of years of a General Election.
Therefore enlightened self-interest, as much as solidarity, dictates that tomorrow's meeting of UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) must make a clear and unequivocal statement of support for PCS. I hope to blog tomorrow about how this came to pass.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.