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Public and Commerical Services Union (PCS)

On Inflation and Working Class Struggle

By anonymous - angryworkers.org, June 17, 2022

On Saturday 18th of June, (there was) a national TUC demo in London, and as part of the build up, we were invited to sit on a panel hosted by the People’s Assembly called ‘Wages Up, Bills Down, Tories Out’. We were joined by six other panelists from the RMT, Bristol Co-operative Alliance and the Tribune, Bristol Trades Council and the NEU, the TUC and PCS, the Green and Labour Councillors for Ashley Ward, and the Secretary for Unite South West, who chaired the meeting.

Below is the transcript of the input from one AngryWorkers comrade about the current crisis, followed by a report from a comrade on the meeting in general.

I work as a housekeeper at Southmead hospital and I am a GMB rep there. I previously worked for several years in warehouses and food factories. I can see every day how people who earn around the minimum wage are struggling more.

I think we’re in a crisis in more ways than one. It’s a cost of living crisis, yes. It’s also coinciding with a long-running crisis of working class organisation and militancy (e.g. the fact that NHS workers can’t even enforce an actual pay rise, despite all the public support and the fact that we slogged our guts out in the pandemic, says a lot). And it’s also a crisis of the system where there aren’t any obvious answers.

Labour movement agendas in conflict over decarbonisation pathways

By Les Levidow - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 7, 2022

The Just Transition concept has sought to avoid socially unjust means and consequences of a low-carbon transition. Alternatives could provide the basis for a common agenda of the labour movement. Yet trade unions have had divergent perspectives on decarbonisation pathways, especially as regards the potential role of technological solutions. 

Such conflict has focused on Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS). This is favourably called ‘carbon abatement’ or pejoratively called a ‘technofix’. As one reason for US trade-unions supporting CCS and thus the fossil fuel industry, often they have achieved relatively greater job security and wages there; such gains may seem jeopardised by substituting renewable energy.

UK CCS agendas focus on the prospect to decarbonise natural gas into hydrogen. This agenda unites the UK ‘energy unions’ with their members’ employers, as a cross-class alliance for a CCS fix. From a critical perspective, this seeks to accumulate capital by perpetuating natural gas, while undermining or delaying its renewable competitors.

Trade-union divergences have arisen in many ways. For a Just Transition, ITUC has advocated phasing out ‘unabated coal’, implying that coal with CCS could continue indefinitely. In the name of climate justice, the TUC has advocated CCS as a means to continue fossil fuels within a ‘balanced energy’ policy. By contrast, according to the PCS, CCS ‘is not yet a proven technology at scale’, and we don’t have the luxury to wait; it counterposes a strategy of energy democracy.

Such political divergences within the labour movement have arisen around Just Transition proposals at TUC conferences, likewise around agendas for a Green New Deal. In 2019 these were promoted within the US Democratic Party and UK Labour Party. Both underwent internal conflicts over decarbonisation pathways, expressing conflicts within the labour movement. 

Unions crucial to development of climate movement

By staff - Public and Commercial Services Union, May 25, 2022

The trade union movement is crucial to the development of a climate movement, PCS conference heard in a debate on the impact and aftermath of COP26.

Motion A41, moved by Mairtin from DWP Glasgow branch on Wednesday (25) afternoon, criticised the government for greenwashing by promoting market mechanisms as the central plank to solve the climate emergency through emissions trading or carbon offsetting or some other accountancy trick. But leaving solutions to the market will not work.

Mairtin said we will take no lectures from the government on environmental issues: “We’ve been taking notice of environmental issues and talking about diversification for decades. We represent the poorest and most marginalised in society who will be most affected by the environmental disaster.

“We live in the ravages of the environmental crisis and we are the ones who will rebuild our communities.”

That COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference which took place in Glasgow last year, marked a new level of mass campaigning over the environmental crisis. There was praise for the COP26 Coalition, a coalition of groups and individuals mobilising around climate justice during COP26, for becoming a “dynamic movement involving environmental campaigns, religious organisations, trade unions and the left.”

The motion, which was carried unanimously, said that there are confusions and disagreements that need to be engaged with, such as the belief that moving away from a carbon-based economy will lead to job losses.

Angus from DWP Cambridgeshire who seconded the motion, said COP26 was a ‘cop-out 26’.

“PCS has led the way promoting the green agenda, this needs to continue and we also need to provide more support for our environmental reps,” he said.

The motion said that climate action must take account of the inequality of carbon emissions with the biggest emitters compensating the lowest emitters for climate change, recognised by COP18 in Doha, 2012 as the ‘climate debt’.

Jackie Green, supporting the motion on behalf of the NEC, highlighted how our union is developing a network of green reps nationally.

“As we look to move into a different phase after COP26, we look to mobilise around key events, including the TUC demo on 18 June,” she said.

The motion called on the NEC to:

  • Commit to engage fully with any new coalition that emerges out of the COP26 coalition.
  • Develop a network of green reps and equip them with the knowledge they need through dedicated training that happens on a regular basis.
  • Aim to build regional networks of reps based across different civil service departments.
  • Work in the wider trade union movement to engage other trade unions on this issue and develop cross-union networks.
  • Use those networks and work with the successor to the COP26 coalition to organise a trade union conference around the demand for a Just Transition to a more sustainable economy.

Public and Commercial Services Union: Action is Needed Now on Climate Change

By Staff - Public and Commercial Services Union, November 26, 2021

Addressing climate change and environmental damage should be used as an opportunity to improve the lives of all workers and communities.

The government still lacks a plan for how it will implement its net zero carbon targets, including ensuring we have a fully resourced civil service that is set up to deliver on this. PCS members are critical to a Just Transition, for example in DWP ensuring the temporary work coaches hired to deal with the Covid crisis are made permanent to deal with the climate crisis and help workers transition into jobs in the so called green economy.

PCS ‘s climate change sub committee has written the following statement:

COP26 – no time for tears, we need action

PCS stands with the chorus of voices angry at the outcome of the COP26 climate negotiations but determined to ensure that the era of injustice is over. As UK COP President Alok Sharmer’s banged his gavel to signal agreement on the Glasgow Climate Pact his call for unity rang hollow, just as his tears.

There can be no question this is a pact for elite nations and the powerful fossil fuel lobby against workers and peoples across the world. The shameless disregard for the nations and peoples on the frontline of climate change pleading to be listened to, was paralleled by the voices of workers outside the negotiating rooms on strike in Glasgow throughout the COP. A recognition that climate justice is workers justice, and workers justice is climate justice.

As part of the COP26 coalition, PCS has been proud to be part of mobilising our movement around the COP alongside the wider climate justice movement. But this mobilisation does not stop here. As we set out in our briefing to members ahead of the COP, market forces won’t save our jobs and what we have been witnessing is a reconfiguring of the economy to ensure the greening of profits.

Whilst financiers at the COP set out the new net zero finance architecture, the business-as -usual tax avoidance and evasion remains in place. We need a new pro-public architecture for a decarbonised economy with assets such as energy, water, transport and communications returned to full public ownership with democratic controls.

There will be no just transition if left to the bankers, and we cannot be fooled by our politicians greenwashing their so called climate ambition in the language of the climate movement. Alok Sharmer and Mark Carney are not part of our movement, they are against our class and we need to ensure we build a wall of solidarity against their next onslaught.

For example, telling us that the transition is too expensive, when not doing the things we urgently need to do now is an irreversible cost. This includes ensuring we have a fully resourced and well paid civil service that can help deliver a whole economy decarbonisation plan for workers and their communities. As we learnt from the Covid crisis, there is money, and will not be able to deliver on climate action with a pared down civil service as proposed in the last budget announcement.

PCS members are at the heart of the Just Transition. Our members have a vital role to play in the work of collecting taxes, delivering social protections such as real living wage benefits, and supporting workers into new green jobs; looking after green spaces and public facilities such as in the Royal Parks or getting fossil fuel funders out of our museums and galleries; growing the trees for reforestation.

With the UK a signatory to the Just Transition statement announced at the COP, PCS will be seeking a discussion on how this will be taken forward within the UK Civil Service, and other of our employers. We will also be stepping up our efforts across the union to put demands for action on climate.

Climate change is already here, impacting our sisters and brothers at home and around the world. There is no time to waste. We need to build on the alliances we have made mobilising for the COP, strengthening our power to win on climate and to win for workers.

COP26: What Do Unions Want?

At TUED Global Forum, Scottish TUC Calls for Public Energy in preparation for COP26 in Glasgow: STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer delivers call for “A People’s Transition to Net Zero”

By Staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 16, 2021

On August 11, TUED convened its latest Global Forum, to take up the question: "COP26: What Do Unions Want?"

The Forum saw contributions from COP26 host national center, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC), the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), the UK’s Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and Public Services International (PSI).

Nearly 150 participants joined the call, from 69 unions in 40 countries around the world.

The forum opened with remarks from Roz Foyer, General Secretary of the STUC. As the national trade union center for Scotland, with 40 affiliated unions as of 2020, the STUC represents over 540,000 trade unionists. Based in Glasgow, STUC will play host to trade unionists from around the world at COP26, in partnership with the UK’s TUC. (The recording of Foyer’s full contribution is available here.)

Foyer began by highlighting the STUC’s domestic campaigning priorities in Scotland in preparation for COP26, noting that these “chime in very closely with the TUED approach”:

We are first and foremost striving at the moment to build a genuine people’s recovery from the pandemic, and that people’s recovery that we are calling for is about calling for systematic changes to how our economy is organized, and really shifting the narrative around “private = good, public = bad.” And we’re also wanting to see our economy being rebuilt on a just transition. Everyone talks about a ‘just transition’ for workers, but we don’t believe that that just transition is being carried out by governments at this time. So we want to see a people’s recovery from the pandemic and a people’s transition to net zero.

The Covid crisis and the climate crisis have both brought into sharp focus the fact that the private sector and big business have proven themselves as being totally unable to meet the economic and social challenges that economies across the world now face. I think the writing was already on the wall when ordinary people through their governments were forced to bail out the banks during the financial crisis of 2010. And the latest incarnation of this are the various government rescue plans that we’ve seen across the world during covid, which, however necessary to save jobs in the short term, have really been largely focused on bailing out the bosses and the private sector.

So as we look forward to the vital need to decarbonize and achieve net zero through a Just Transition, it’s quite unthinkable that this could be achieved without massive government intervention, and without the efficiency and accountability that can only be delivered by direct, public sector delivery.

Turning to preparations for COP26, Foyer emphasized that the STUC’s approach is to use COP26 as a campaigning and leveraging opportunity, and as a means to build awareness and working class power, and make demands to government which are rooted in the real material needs of working people in Scotland. Towards that end, STUC has identified three campaign priorities which they will focus on in the months leading up to COP26.

Trade Unionists And Ecologists Demand A Just Transition Towards Less Air Traffic

By Stay Grounded - Popular Resistance, February 11, 2021

London/Vienna Today, the UK trade union PCS and the global network Stay Grounded published together a paper entitled “A Rapid and Just Transition of Aviation – Shifting towards Climate-Just Mobility”. Tahir Latif, PCS Aviation Group President, says: “This paper clearly shows: the aviation workforce needs to accommodate the urgent requirement for a reduction in flying. This is imperative to avoid climate catastrophe. We need to retain job security through retraining and redeployment into jobs, some within aviation and some in other sectors, that help to restore the planet, not destroy it.”

This Paper makes it clear that there is no option to go back to business as before Covid-19: instead of bailing out airlines, airports and manufacturers, recovery packages must directly finance a just transition. This includes providing a living wage and social protection for workers leaving the industry, retraining programmes, creating jobs in climate-safe sectors and fostering alternatives to flights and harmful mass tourism. 

Public money must save people, not planes”, says Magdalena Heuwieser, from Stay Grounded. “If we try to go back to the old high-speed fossil-fuelled transport system, it will crash very soon. Let’s be realistic: aviation will change, and it will do so either by design or by disaster. So let’s choose design.” 

The discussion paper has a global scope and is the result of a collective writing process by people active in the climate justice movement, trade unionists, indigenous communities and academics from around the world. Several aviation workers who were involved also advocate for a just transition and less flying, like ex-pilot Paul Taylor: “I was made redundant from my airline due to Covid-19 – and I won’t go back to flying. I realised it’s neither healthy for me, nor for the planet.”

The document has its focus on the question of how to fairly reduce passenger flights and it makes clear links to freight as well as tourism. ”Mass sun and beach tourism is a sector that is highly dependent on aviation and very vulnerable, as the Covid pandemic has shown. We need to focus on more inland and local tourism, based on sustainability, respect for the territory and on more sustainable mobility options,” says Carlos Martínez, member of the Secretary of Environment from CC.OO. The Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras) is one of the biggest Spanish unions. In another paper published in January 2021 with the biggest Spanish environmental NGOs, it argues for reducing dependency on mass tourism and air travel. 

It is key that the climate justice movement, trade unions and workers join forces to fight for our future”, concludes Magdalena Heuwieser from Stay Grounded. The demand for a just transition has been developed by trade unions and the climate justice movement. It aims to protect workers and communities currently dependent on fossil fuel industries, but is also a broader process to help safeguard the future of workers, communities and the planet. It is not an argument for delaying the changes needed, rather for managing them effectively, fairly and democratically. 

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) is one of the largest unions in the U.K., with around 180,000 members. PCS represents workers in the civil service and ex-civil service areas that are now in the private sector, including aviation. PCS is one of six UK unions with members in aviation, representing around 1,800 workers in air traffic management, airport ground and security staff and in civil aviation regulation.

Stay Grounded is a network of about 170 member organisations from all over the world, among them: NGOs, climate justice groups, indigenous organisations, labour unions and civil initiatives against airport noise and expansion. Together, they fight for climate justice and a fair reduction of aviation.

A Rapid and Just Transition of Aviation: Shifting towards climate-just mobility

By staff - Stay Grounded, February 2021

Covid-19 has grounded air traffic. The aviation industry itself expects to be operating at a lower capacity over the next few years. This Paper discusses how long-term security for workers and affected communities can be guaranteed, without returning to business as before. 

With the looming climate breakdown, automation, digitalisation and likely climate induced pandemics, we need to be realistic: aviation and tourism will change – and they will do so either by design or by disaster. They will transition either with or without taking into account workers’ interests.

This Discussion Paper, published by the Stay Grounded Network and the UK Trade Union PCS in February 2021, is a result of a collective writing process by people active in the climate justice movement, workers in the aviation sector, trade unionists, indigenous communities and academics from around the world. It aims to spark debates and encourage concrete transition plans by states, workers and companies.

Read the text (PDFs: EN | DA | DE | ES | FR | PT ).

Trade unions in the UK engagement with climate change

By Catherine Hookes - Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group, August 15, 2017

Despite being faced with many immediate battles to fight, it is to the credit of many trade unions that they are also addressing the long term wellbeing of their members, and of future generations, by introducing policies to tackle climate change. A new report providing the first ever overview of the climate change policies of 17 major UK trade unions could help raise wider awareness of this important work.

The author, Catherine Hookes, is studying for a masters degree at Lund University, Sweden, and her research drew on a comprehensive web review of policies in these unions, going into more depth for many of the unions, interviewing key figures and activists. The research was facilitated by the Campaign against Climate Change.

For anyone within the trade union movement concerned about climate change (or for campaigners wishing to engage with trade unions on these issues) this report is of practical use in understanding the context, the diversity of different trade unions' approaches, and the progress that has been made in the campaign for a just transition to a low carbon economy.

While every attempt was made to ensure the report is comprehensive, and accurately reflects union positions, there are clearly controversies and different viewpoints over issues such as fracking and aviation. Trade unions with members in carbon intensive industries will always have a challenging task in addressing climate change, but their engagement in this issue is vital. And, of course, this is a rapidly changing field. It is very encouraging that since the report was written, Unison has voted to campaign for pension fund divestment. This is an important step in making local authority pension funds secure from the risk (both financial and moral) of fossil fuel investment.

Anyone attending TUC congress this September is welcome to join us at our fringe meeting, 'Another world is possible: jobs and a safe climate', to take part in the ongoing discussion on the role of trade unions in tackling climate change.

Read the text (PDF).

Museum Workers’ Union Condemns Oil Sponsorship of British Cultural Institutions

By Kyla Mandel - DeSmog UK, May 20, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Big Oil’s sponsorship of British museums and galleries must come to an end, argues the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Culture Sector.

Delegates to the PCS annual conference in Brighton yesterday voted overwhelmingly to support a new union campaign calling for an end to oil sponsorship of the arts.

The union represents 5,000 workers in UK cultural institutions that have accepted money from BP or Shell, including Tate, the British Museum and National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Clara Paillard, president of the PCS Culture Sector, said: “We have taken an important step in calling for museums to move away from dirty sponsorship by oil and arms trade corporations.  

We believe these sponsorship deals and privatisation are two sides of the same coin: a capitalist model for arts and culture which we reject. Access to culture is a human right, and we will defend it.”

Growing Campaign

Over the past three years the campaign to end oil sponsorship in the arts has grown rapidly. Pressure from campaign groups, such as BP or not BP? and Liberate Tate, has led to the Southbank Centre ending Shell’s sponsorship of its ‘Classic International’ series.

And, most recently, an information tribunal ruling last December forced Tate to publish the sum of money BP paid as a sponsor between 1990 and 2006, along with details of internal decision-making on the controversial relationship.

Danny Chivers, an ‘actorvist’ from BP or not BP? speaking at the PCS conference, said: “Fossil fuel companies belong in the past, and their sullied logos have no place inside forward-looking publicly-funded museums and galleries.

We are committed to working towards a thriving culture sector, where staff have fair pay and conditions and are free to work for the benefit of the public rather than being forced to meet the interests of polluting companies and profiteering privatisers.”

The beginning of next year will see Tate, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House decide whether or not to renew their five-year sponsorship deals with BP.

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