The civil service’s biggest union has agreed to an in-year hike of its monthly subscription rates for members that will generate tens of thousands of pounds a month for a war chest to support workers taking “sustained” strike action.
Delegates to the PCS conference in Brighton this week agreed to increase members’ subs by 50p a month from 1 June with the proviso that the extra cash is placed in a “ring-fenced” fighting fund to support staff taking industrial action.
The increase in subs levels comes in addition to the 2019 annual increase, which took effect from January. Even the highest-earning PCS members only saw their monthly subs increase by 21p a month then. This week’s decision will mean the highest rate of PCS subscriptions is £14.57 a month.
Based on PCS’s stated membership of 200,000, the move would generate £100,000 a month – or £1.2m a year – to help staff who lose pay through taking part in strike action. However not all members will need to pay the extra 50p a month.
Martin Cavanagh, who is a senior member of PCS’s Department for Work and Pensions Group, and who moved the proposals in Brighton, said members in unrecognised workplaces and those on reduced subscription rates would be exempt.
“Since its inception the fighting fund has been an invaluable tool in supporting members taking sustained strike action,” he said.
“Our members have achieved notable victories because of the support of the fighting fund. But voluntary contributions have simply not worked in raising the amount of funds we need to support national industrial action.
“To take the fight to this government and our employers we have to build a far bigger war chest to have at our disposal.”
Members of the union’s DWP Wolverhampton and Walsall branch are due to stage a second wave of strike action next week over workloads related to the rollout of Universal Credit.
Branch member Barbara Bolstridge said the first wave of action – a two-day strike in March – would not have been possible without the fund.
PCS’s national executive committee agreed to the plan to boost the union’s fighting fund following a consultation that ran from December to January.
The union currently has numerous local campaigns operating, which as well as the action over Universal Credit includes recent strikes by outsourced support staff at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
However its bid to call a civil-service-wide strike over pay last month failed to pass the 50% turnout threshold that is now a legal requirement for strike action.
PCS said turnout in the ballot, which ran from 18 March to 29 April, was 47.7% and that a further 3,000 votes would have been required to pass the threshold, introduced via the Trade Union Act 2016.
It said that an analysis of the votes cast showed members had voted by four to one in favour of strike action or “action short of a strike” and that the results would have provided a strong mandate for industrial action before the law change.