On Thurday 10 December, I joined many trade unionists, performers and politicians to share a platform with the First Minister of Scotland and the Leader of the Labour Party. Here is what I said:
Sisters and brothers, I am pleased that tonight our movement brings together Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP First Minister of Scotland and Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of the Labour Party, both of whom agree on two fundamentals:
- Austerity isn’t working
- They are outrightly opposed to the despicable Tory trade union Bill
We are inspired by this event showcasing the breadth of commitment, resolve and passion to overthrow the abhorrent Trade Union Bill.
Let me tell you the story of another harsh reality, faced by members of my union, PCS, but firstly you have to imagine having George Osborne or David Cameron as your boss? As the direct employees of government, for PCS members, in the main, this is their reality. Of course as civil servants they work for the government of the day with impartiality, who ever that is – some in Scotland work under Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister and in Wales Carwyn Jones.
Because the Tories have now declared a war on our class, and PCS members are in the frontline. Austerity is a façade for: cutting public services to a bare minimum; driving down the pay, terms and conditions of public sector workers; and and making services ripe for privatisation.
What Osborne did not bank for when he set out on this stall, was highly organised, fighting trade union ethos across civil and public services… and one that with strong leadership is prepared to support targeted, sustained, national and co-ordinated industrial action where necessary to defend services. It is because our membership is strong, the Tories have set out to destroy our union – employing anti-union tactics as a precursor for some of the most vicious proposals they now wish to pursue through the trade union bill.
- First they cut our jobs, pay and pensions
- then they curbed our facility time
- Finally they came for our union.
But, the good news Sisters and Brothers is that the Tory ploy hasn’t worked! PCS members are not cowering, they are rising in opposition. With facility time slashed, we have retained and recruited some of our strongest leaders, organising workplaces across the country. And where check off has been removed, we have switched 85% of members across to direct debit to ensure our union is sustainable for the future.
Let us all, then, campaign with confidence. The Tory Bill will not hang over our heads.
During the PCS seven day strike action at the National Museums of Scotland in August, we had 70 to 90 people on the picketlines – that included members, babies, dogs, friends, family and Fringe actors showing support, singing songs, holding picnics and generally having fun. No trouble, no police called, no arrests made – but under the Bill – we would have broken the law.
Well let me be clear, no bad vindictive law is going to stop our movement showing solidarity with workers in struggle. And that campaign for a weekend working allowance for low paid workers goes on…
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party lifted our hearts, when they were truly aching. Not because of who he is, what he looks like or even, what he says, but because of his understanding and belief in our movement. In Jeremy’s success, the much needed debate is no longer about austerity lite versus austerity max, but about the economic alternative we need in this country.
My union is proud to have worked closely with Jeremy and shadow chancellor John McDonnell over many difficult years – and, even though we are not affiliated to any Party, we look forward to real engagement with those who share our deep Opposition to these Tory attacks.
I have one friendly bit of advice for Jeremy. The people of Scotland were let down badly by Labour. The only way back, is not to attack everyone for leaving Labour, but to listen to what they have to say.