Calling all PCS Young Members – attend the National Young Members Forum and join the fight back!

YM Forum

The PCS Young Members Forum is taking place on 19th & 20th September in Nottingham. The Forum is the network’s national annual event, where young members from across the country are invited to discuss the issues we facing today and how we can campaign and organise to fight back.

With the election of Tory majority government, young people are yet again going to face the brunt of austerity. Already we have seen proposals to remove benefits from young people and the new “living wage” won’t apply to under 25s. All the whilst young people continue to suffer, whether it be zero hours contracts, low pay, bullying at work or crippling rent prices. The only way we can turn this around is to organise and fight back, and the PCS Young Members are at the forefront of that.

Whether you’re already an established rep in your branch or you’ve just joined the YM Network and want to get more involved, the YM Forum is the place to meet other young reps and build your ability to get more involved in your workplace, branch, group & region.

ymf

Over the weekend there will be open debates, workshops, training and of course the obligatory social as well as the election of the national officers (Chair, Vice Chair & Equalities Officer) by secret ballot.  National elections circulars with details of how to nominate and stand will be released in due course.

The event is open to any PCS member who is 27 and under. Registration will open at 11am on Sat 19th and the event will finish no later than 2pm on the 20th. Overnight accommodation, meals and travel costs are all supplied by the PCS. If you have any requirements, please do let us know!

To apply to attend the event, fill out the application form here as well a supporting statement about why you would like to attend and an equality monitoring form, then send it to youngmembers@pcs.org.uk by 5pm Fri 21st August. If you have any questions, fill free to email or contact your regional convener for more info.

 

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Why we ought to continue to support Young LGBT workers

Steve HSteven Heyward, PCS Proud Secretary and South West Regional Convener, blogs on why its vital that LGBT and equality issues are at the heart of our youth campaigning.

I often hear that because I am young, I don’t have to stay in the public sector administrative role that I am in any more. I can go and become a doctor like I always wanted to be. The fact is, I can’t just leave and go back to college and study for almost 10 years to become a doctor (I would have to re-sit a bunch of stuff) because I have a family, a home and financial responsibilities like many young people do these days.

I thought that instead of writing a blog post, I would tell you about a typical day in my household. I have also thrown in some real examples that I have dealt with as either the PCS Proud Secretary or a shop steward.

05:30 – The alarm goes off… My fiancé gets up and makes coffee. To someone who doesn’t sleep so well, coffee is like nectar.

06:30 – After putting my socks on (which would be quite comical to watch, I’m sure) and fighting with other items of clothing and getting myself ready, we leave for work. As we live in Wales and we both work in England it means catching the train or driving. The train costs a fortune but driving and parking would too. There lies the dilemma!

07:30 – I am logged in to my computer and phone at work whilst saying good morning to my colleagues that are in at this disgraceful hour. I love some of my colleagues, some of them make me genuinely smile and some of them like Doctor Who too… I grab some more coffee and yawn a bit whilst checking my emails and ‘flagging’ what I need to sort out sooner rather than later.

10:00 – Had a meeting with a member of the union who is unhappy at work and needs PCS’ assistance, glad I could help but, with the attacks that union reps face on facilities time, it can sometimes be difficult to help people as much as we would like without sacrificing something but I would do it time and time again.

11:45 – I heard a conversation in the office about someone who was perceived to be gay… I remember thinking to myself that it shouldn’t matter, as long as we can work in an environment free of persecution, discrimination, and victimisation and bullying then we should not gossip about sexual orientation or gender identity. I have a letter that I need to send someone but I am almost seething at listening to things like this.

12:00 – Message to my other half “Can we have lunch now? I am famished!” We used to treat ourselves on occasions to sandwiches at the local sandwich shop but since we got on to the property ladder, I can’t afford to eat sandwiches that I haven’t made at home for less than half the price. I also need to escape because I am sick of hearing “You won’t be in to football because, you know” in various sections of the office.

15:00 – Decided that I have had enough for the day. I am totally enlightened about my future by colleagues that tell me things that I can do when I get older (I can already get a driving license, vote gamble, drink and smoke, borrow money, buy property, have sex and stuff so what other things do I get to do later on in life?) and how I have so much freedom being younger and all that.

16:00 – I have really had enough now. I beg my other half to make the journey from three floors above mine so we can leave the office. I normally like a 3PM finish as I get in early but I need to build

up the flexi so that I can attend meetings with and on behalf of union members as well as other bits and pieces….

17:00 – I am home… that kettle goes on again and I have coffee and start thinking about dinner again….

22:00 – I need to go to bed but I have been preparing some union work for one of the committees I sit on but the alarm is due to go off in the near future so I must stop fighting the desire to get things done and hit the sack.

There are other bits and pieces that I have experienced that don’t fit in to a typical day. For example, when I was at a hotel recently, for an LGBT event, I put my partner down as my carer as well as my partner but because he is another man, we can’t possibly share a bed and so he is given the adjoining room… a bit insensitive really don’t you think?

What does this have to do with Young Workers Month?

Well, just because I am young it doesn’t mean that I can just up and leave my workplace for education, I have bills to pay and education would bankrupt me at this point. Education should be free and something that enriches your life, not plagues your life or haunts you with debt.

I have been on strike recently for an increase in my pay, I’m not asking for much but a cost of living increase. On top of this, rail operators charge extortionate fees without looking after their staff or trains… #PeopleNotProfit! Therefore because young people can legally be paid less than their older counterparts the Government are sponsoring an age related pay gap.

Also, just because my family is not a “nuclear” unit it doesn’t meant that we are a lesser family.

I get called names and treated differently because my partner is another man. I know colleagues from across the LGBT community that get treated differently because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

You’ve read about my day and you can see that I have similar issues to a lot of people apart from the odd bit of prejudice etc… that are specific to my sexual orientation.

I have a friend who blogs frequently and recently did a blog about not grieving for their daughter (a piece about gender identity from a parent’s point of view) http://t.co/LR4dgV4Fmf which I encourage you to read. Having reflected on this blog and stewing on my thoughts I guess I want to say:

Do not be sad for me because I face issues or prejudice. Do not think that LGBT people have it terribly because it’s not all bad. In fact, some of it is beautiful. Instead, stand with me and fight for young people, LGBT people and all and every under-represented group in society. For when we fight we have a chance at winning the battle. Do not sit there and think it is ok to make reference to someone’s sexuality or gender identity “just because” but don’t be afraid to ask me questions about who I am. I don’t like football because I am not keen on sports, not because of my sexuality.

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Support the 19th November Free-Education demonstration – support university workers and students in struggle.

We are acutely aware that many PCS members beginning their jobs or careers in the public sector will be saddled with debt from higher education. Others will have FE tuition bills to pay or will have been put off from applying for college or university courses altogether by the cost.

On the 19th of November students from up and down the country will be demonstrating in London demanding the abolition of fees from both Further and Higher Education. University students currently pay £9k a year in tuition fees. This coupled with maintenance and support loans means that the average student leaves university saddled with upwards of £20k of debt. For those wishing to study a college course the situation is equally dire. Courses that used to be free, including basic skills courses, now either incur charges or are cut altogether as funding is slashed and local education provision privatised.

The demand for free-education and living grants for students is a democratic demand. Access to all education, like healthcare, should be universal and free at the point of use, paid for by taxing the wealthy and big business.

The demand for free-education is also a labour movement demand. Access to knowledge and learning has always been a cornerstone of the Trade Union movement. The ability to understand the world, debate ideas and learn new skills and vocations should not be the preserve of those with the financial wherewithal to do so.

The demonstration is not simply concerned with fees. The same job cuts, privatisation and attacks on pay being met out on civil servants are also impacting teachers and lecturers in Further and Higher Education. Alongside this the government is attacking the pensions of staff in the majority of universities. In response UCU members are currently taking part in a marking boycott as of the 6th of November. This demonstration also shows solidarity to those UCU members and the PCS Young Members Network echoes that solidarity.

Last year the National Union of Students, the body that represents 7 million students in the UK, changed its long-standing policy of supporting a ‘Graduate Tax’ – a form of income tax levied on students – to supporting Free Education as a universal public good. This should be welcomed and has long been the policy of the PCS and most other trade unions, including the teaching and lecturers unions.

Shamefully however, the NUS full-time leadership – most of them long standing opponents of free-education – have undermined this policy and a motion supporting the demonstration from their executive by unilaterally refusing to support it.

The PCS Young Members Network would like to extend its solidarity to those activists within organisations such as the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and Youth Fight for Jobs who are working as volunteers without the funding of the NUS to ensure the demo is a success.

We encourage branches to support the demonstration on the 19th by promoting it to members and donating to the building of it. You can find more information on the link below.

www.anticuts.com

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PCS getting involved in TUC Young Workers Month

November is officially TUC Young Workers Month, where the affiliated trade unions are all putting on a range of events, campaigns and resources dedicated to getting young people involved in trade unionism. PCS has been at the forefront of getting Young Members on the agenda of the wider trade union movement and is taking its much celebrated Young Workers Week and rolling into Young Workers Month.

Our aim, to recruit, develop and organise more young people into our union, to train them up and give them the confidence to become the next generation of union activist. We’ve sent out circulars to all branches to prepare them for this month and we want branches to be talking to their young members, encouraging them to join the Young Members Network and getting active in the union.

Young Workers activity is important to undertake in your branch and should be done alongside and in conjunction with other traditional activity. The average age of a trade unionist is increasing every year across the movement and the PCS is no exception. Young members today are the first generation to be unlikely to have had parents in the trade union movement and so will often not know about trade unions, what they’re about and why they should join. If we want to continue to build our branches and our union, we need to ensure we are targeting young members.

What you can do in your branch:

  • Distribute the new Young Members Network Join forms & speak to them about getting involved. They can also join online
  • Send round the latest young member newsletter to everyone in your branch
  • Hold a workplace meeting on issues relevant to your young workers
  • Ask young members to be involved in local branch activity signing up members to direct debit
  • Ask your regional young members convener to attend your branch to speak to young members and support any activity
  • Invite a young member to observe your BEC and become the Young Members Officer
  • Get in touch with the Young Members Network about young members in your branch and what we can do to support you

Across the UK, regional Young Members conveners have been organising events as well and will be following this up into next year with training and regional meetings, so get in touch with us or your local convener if you want to know more and get involved. We’ll also be posting articles on here from young members for young members, so keep checking back and share with your branches and YMs!

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Young Members at the TUC Report Back

Louise Hollingsworth, PCS National Young Members Vice-Chair reports back as the Young Member’s Observer to TUC Congress.

Sunday 7th September

The TUC conference this year was in Liverpool held in the BT conference centre by Albert dock. This conference is where trade unions and reps alike discuss and debate issues that are not only important to us as workers but also to the general public.

Conference was opened with a speech from the current president and two votes of thanks for him carrying out his duties. Starting off the weeks proceedings were several different motions, covering employment rights.

All motions from employment rights to immigration and zero hour contracts to anti trade union legislation were carried unanimously.

One motion of note was relating to trade union rights and ensuring that trade unions always have the right to organise, strike and repeal all changes the Tory government have made to current industrial relations.

Monday 8th September

The first block of motions heard covered fair pay and a living wage.

PCS spoke on the motion covering public sector pay. This motion has called on the TUC to: put a case to all parties in the run up to the 2015 election to end below inflation pay; co-ordinate joint action between all unions and promote a living wage.

UNISON, EIS, NASUWT and UCU also spoke in support of this motion. It was carried unanimously by conference which is promising to see in this current climate. It was clear from the passionate speakers that most unions are happy to see continued action and are willing to take the fight forward.

The section was further rallied by a speech from Francis O’Grady who pointed out that this current climate has led to a “Downton Abbey style of living”, with the haves and have nots being very clearly segregated in society.

The next block of motions was dealing with education and ensuring school children get a decent standard of education regardless of how much their parents earn or where they live in the UK. All motions in this block were carried.

After this the motion on traineeships was heard and PCS put in an emergency motion to state that this agreement should never have been agreed as it was proposing forced unpaid work on young people due to benefit sanction threats. The TUC have agreed that they should have consulted the young members within the TUC structure and will meet with PCS to discuss how the traineeships agreement can be amended to reflect the changes we have proposed.

Chuka Umunna –Shadow Business Secretary was an invited speaker after this section and put on a very slick performance that asked not what Labour would do for us but what we would do for Labour. This was followed by a Q&A session which was stage managed as not one question was received from the floor and none of the questions asked seemed to help reveal what Labour’s intentions when it came to protecting public services. Mr Umunna seemed more focussed on what would happen if Scotland went independent.

The day was ended with motions covering Health and Safety and the NHS. All motions were carried in this section.

Tuesday 9th September

PCS spoke well on many motions on the Tuesday. But what seemed to be turning into the norm, is that every motion was carried with no contention or disagreement.

I think as I have attended PCS conference I expected more passionate debating but what seemed to be the case was the passion was lost in speakers shouting at the gathered delegates. Although in saying this, every motion that was heard was important in helping improve jobs, pay, services and the economy. But it all hinges on what the TUC take forward on the actions/motions agreed by conference

Congratulations to Sue Bond PCS vice president who was awarded a gold badge in the Congress awards section.

We also had Mark Carney – governor on the Bank of England as a guest speaker. He talked at length about interest rates and how they may be expected to rise in the next year. He also talked of wage restraint and how he fully expected that this was expected to ease in the private sector in the new financial year. He also thanked the working class for taking on low paid, low skilled jobs in order to help support the economy. In fact one thing he did mention was the scope to increase the working day in order to boost the already “stable” economy.

All the questions that were asked of him were skilfully answered by not saying very much at all.

PCS President Janice Godrich was ‘allowed’ to put forward a question about tax evasion, but Mr Carney managed to evade the question by stating it was not his responsibility to make tax decisions. Personally I felt it wrong to invite Mr Carney to the TUC conference and have him preach to us about pay and conditions as I am unsure how much a man who makes £300k plus a year knows about the working class.

Wednesday 10th September

The last day of the conference was much the same as every other day I attended, lots of motions being heard and unanimously carried. The only difference is that one motion was actually lost.

Motion 78 detailed that a motion from the 2013 TUC conference was passed but has since been put on the back burner. It stated that a TUC delegate attends TUC conference and moves the TUC council conference motion as a delegate (reserved position at the TUC). It further asked for implementation of the motion from 2013.

In summary

This conference experience was very different from PCS conference. There was a real lack of debate from speakers and every motion put forward (apart from one) was carried unanimously.

This whole experience has provided an insight into how the TUC can bring many different unions together. And hopefully this will show the current government that the union movement is still willing to fight for the rights of both public and private sector workforces.

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PCS National Young Members Update

The newly elected PCS National Young Members Committee (NYMC) had its first meeting in September to discuss organising young members across the country and how we can continue to recruit and develop young people in the trade union movement. Regional conveners and officers discussed a range of issues to take back to their regions, to consult on key issues effecting the union and to build for future events & campaigns.

Young members will be out for building for the national day of action on Oct 15th, helping to get members out and organise pickets, followed by attending the TUC march for Fair Pay, (where young members will be marching as a block if you would like to join us!). The Direct Debit campaign is also at the fore front of our minds, and the committee is organising to ensure that not only do we sign up the youth activists, but they also taking the lead on organising to defend our union. We are also consulting on where next for the national campaign, how we can get young people involved in “Make Your Vote Count”, including our stance on UKIP, and working with our unions young members to deliver joint work and political training.

TUC Young Workers Month

The TUC Young Workers Month will be taking place this November, where trade unions across the UK will be putting on events and activity to build the next generation of activists and reps. PCS has been at the forefront of organising this within the TUC and will be organising across the UK to get young people involved in the fight back against austerity.

A branch circular and materials will be available and sent out to branches later this month. Get in touch with your local convener if you want to know more or get involved! Regional conveners have been meeting this month to organise meetings, training, protests and workplace activity and will putting out information round regions and groups separately.

Traineeships
The Young Members Network submitted an emergency motion to the NEC to take to the TUC National Conference. The NEC fully supported the NYMC position, and though couldn’t raise the emergency motion, raised the issue at conference. Helen Flanagan of the NEC demanded an explanation of why any statement was made suggesting that unpaid work scheme was acceptable to trade unionists. The TUC responded with an apology, confirmed its position that all work should be paid and that the PCS and the TUC Young Members Forum would be consulted in future.

The NYMC will continue to follow this up nationally through the TUC Young Members Forum not only to win the position for all work to be paid but how we can go out and fight for it.

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PCS National Young Members Committee condemns TUC support for unpaid work placements

The PCS National Young Members Committee condemn’s the TUC’s recent statement on “Traineeships”. At a time when across the UK, young people, activists and trade unionists are fighting back against unpaid work in all forms, the TUC signing a joint statement with the CBI, a group who represent employers and often directly against trade unions and our members interests,  supporting unpaid work placements undermines our campaigns. Their statement tacitly, if not explicitly, shows that trade unionists can support unpaid work, a position we feel is unacceptable and sets a bad precedent for future exploitative work schemes.

Traineeships are a government scheme where unemployed young people are given 6 weeks unpaid work combined with some class based learning with no guarantee of employment at the end of the period. Our collective experience of these schemes is that often benefit the employer with free labour, prevent the employment on staff on a genuine basis, undermine terms and conditions for existing staff and ultimately give the young person little to show for it. Even where they can be positive outcomes, young people who cannot afford to work for free are the least likely to be able to accept such placements.

Additionally, though Traineeships on paper is not sanctions based, experience from these schemes shows that pressure will be bought against young people to take up these roles, regardless of suitability, under the threat of sanctions in order to meet arbitrarily imposed targets on staff.

As trade unionists, our position should to be first and foremost to support young people and call for all work to be paid to be paid a living wage, regardless of age, and for an end to exploitative work schemes such as these. All apprenticeships should be subject to the same pay and terms and conditions of those they work with and a guarantee of a qualification and employment at the end of the placement.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that at no stage were the TUC Young Members Committee, representing young trades from across the UK, or any young people were asked their opinion. The TUC YM Forum (the annual motion conference of the TUC Young Members) has consistently voted for all work undertaken by young people to be paid and has rejected to support any unpaid work schemes. If the TUC wants to represent and support young people, in the future it can do well to ask their opinion as opposed to arbitrarily speaking for them.

The PCS Young Members Network condemns all forms of Workfare and unpaid work. We believe that all work should be paid a minimum living wage and that the only answer to unemployment into investment into public services to create socially useful work for young people.

We ask that young trade unionists join us in condemning this statement and calling for the TUC to reverse its position, call for all work to be paid and work with young trade unionists to create a real alternative for young people.

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