All Members are directed to the urgent Members’ Briefing issued about the dispute of HOME OFFICE PCS members over job cuts, pay, privatisation, Trade Union discrimination and regressive performance and sickness absence management policies. PCS are running a ballot of all Home Office PCS members on whether to commence industrial action against the Home Office’s intransigence to PCS’ representations on behalf of members.
Members are asked two questions in the ballot:
- Are you prepared to take part in strike action?
- Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike?
PCS recommends that members VOTE YES to both questions.
The ballot will open on 15 June 2012 and will close on 4 July 2012. Ballot papers will be sent by post to members’ nominated ballot address (usually your home address). If you have not had a ballot paper by 22 June 2012 please contact Tara Blackman on 0207 801 2625 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are the Issues in Dispute
The Home Office is engaged in a programme to cuts jobs in all areas of the department. Almost a third of the workforce will have disappeared by 2015 under the current proposals. The employer has forced Periods of Reflection (called when compulsory redundancy appears unavoidable) in a number of areas and the threat of forced compulsory redundancy is looming closer. Meanwhile, the Home Office is continuing to mask staffing shortages with the use of overtime and panic redeployment measures, even in areas where work has been moved to in order to justify office closures elsewhere.
The Chancellor has announced that, on the back of a two year pay freeze, rises for the next two years will be limited to 1%. Given the rate of inflation over that period, members are facing a real terms reduction in their living standards of around 16%. The situation deteriorated further with the proposed rise in pension contributions from April. Workers in the Home Office are finding it an increasing struggle to survive. The employer has done nothing to address pay disparities caused by various Machinery of Government changes that now see members doing broadly the same job for wildly different pay rates.
HO/MB/10/12 advised members of the existence of another significant backlogs of cases in UKBA. It advised members that SERCO had offered their services for free for 6 months, and that two teams have been set up on this 6-month project; which can be summarised as UKBA versus SERCO. This is the same SERCO that left a terrible mess behind in Casework Resolution Directorate that our members subsequently had to clear it. The same company has now been brought into the Border Force operation to staff Cyclamen machinery, which tests for radioactivity. In an extremely worrying development, it has been brought to the attention of PCS that the department are now planning to privatise massive chunks of work currently undertaken by our members’ in caseworking areas across the country today. The attacks on members’ pensions at national level are clearly designed to make it cheaper for the government to sell off large chunks of the public sector so that their friends in the city can make a fat profit. Our members in the Home Office are directly in the line of fire. Privatisation has always resulted in job cuts, poorer pay and attacks on terms and conditions.
In April 2012, the employer imposed a new Performance Management System. The new system will include an element of moderation that will see an arbitrary percentage of staff marked as “must improve”, even when their manager perceives that there are no problems with their performance. At the same time, the employer has introduced a streamlined 3-stage performance management process which goes from stage 1 to dismissal in 6 months. The employer is clearly preparing the ground to meet its job cuts targets by sacking workers without having to pay any redundancy money.
Changes to the Attendance Management policy with came into effect in March 2012 in the core Home Office, UKBA, Border Force and CRB. The new policy includes the removal of the ‘serious underlying medical condition’ exemption, added emphasis on ‘supporting staff back to work’ through a variety of informal measures, Work Based Discussions’ between managers and staff on sick leave, to ascertain their fitness or otherwise to work and ‘Senior Managers Discretion’ to replace ‘Directors Discretion’ – essentially a different form of delegated authority to consider discretion. The changes to HR policies are a cynical attempt to reduce headcount through sacking workers without having to pay them any redundancy.
Victimisation of PCS Reps
Previous members’ briefings detailed the sackings of PCS reps Mark Hammond and Sue Kendal on what we believe were trumped up charges. Further cases have now appeared on the horizon. It is clear that the employer is targeting key PCS reps who have provided vocal opposition to their attacks on our membership. Indeed, a general culture of victimisation is now prevalent in large areas of the workforce, with workers operating in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear.
Type and Duration of Action
All members will be asked to take some strike action and some action short of a strike. However, that action is likely to differ from time to time and from place to place, depending upon where you work and on developments as the dispute unfolds.
Whatever action is called, we will try to ensure as far as possible that all members to make the same contribution. This contribution will be in the form of both industrial action and financial donation. In respect of both, members will be asked to sacrifice a maximum of three days pay over a four month period.
Action that you may be asked to take part in as part of action short of a strike could include, for example:
- Taking part in an overtime ban
- Taking full breaks
- Refusing to work outside your contracted hours
For full details of PCS’ demands see the Members’ Briefing on the vote.
The GEC intend that this campaign will take a more targeted approach to strike action. In order to try to sustain paid strike action in areas of maximum industrial and political impact, we are recommending members to take part in a levy to raise funds for this purpose. As a minimum, we will be asking members to contribute:
- AA’s – a minimum of £1 per month
- AO’s – a minimum of £2 per month
- EO’s – a minimum of £3 per month
- HEO’s – a minimum of £4 per month
- SEO’s – a minimum of £5 per month
- Grade 7s and above – a minimum of £6
A YES/YES vote in the ballot will be taken as members agreeing to the establishment of the levy.
We urge all members to vote Yes/Yes and declare that they are tired of being made scapegoats to the government’s ideologically driven cuts agenda. We urge all members to stand together and declare with one voice that enough is enough!
UPDATE: A list of the demands PCS will make if a YES/YES recommendation is carried is here: http://www.pcswestcroydon.org.uk/archives/848____________
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