PCS R&C Benton Park View Branch

For members of the PCS Union at Benton Park View

Equality

Click here to go the Equality section of the main PCS website

Equality is at the heart of everything we do. In the way we organise ourselves and campaign we always strive to ensure we are representing all of our members. Our equality officers work with members to promote equality and tackle discrimination in the workplace, society and the wider world. We are committed to ensuring those members in groups currently under-represented in our union’s structures are encouraged and supported to play a full and active role. We run four national forums for women, black, disabled, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, which meet regularly to share information and ideas, and advise the national executive on policy.

Introducing the new Equality Support:

Click here to go the Equality section of the main PCS website

The Durham Miners Gala:

[18/07/2016]

I spent a fantastic day at #DurhamMinersGala2016 on Saturday 9th July with some of the residents of my small village. The Big Meeting is an important part of our mining heritage here in the North East and the biggest celebration of trade union and working class culture in Europe. It was a real pleasure to march behind the Greenside pit banner listening to the brilliant Drighlington Brass Band (see: www.drighlingtonband.co.uk) who accompanied us. Incredibly our party was only a few banners behind the PCS contingent, with our Benton Park View R&C banner on proud display as we queued to march past the iconic Royal County Hotel in the centre of Durham.

As we made our way onto the field the crowds were already spectacular and soon to be joined by the many more who had lined the streets to see the parade. By the time the speeches began the crowd was estimated to have been even bigger than the usual 150k creating a buzzing atmosphere.

The ‘Friends of the Durham Miners Gala’ website speaks of its “144 history” and how “the Gala has given a voice to the oppressed throughout the world. It has expressed the importance of trade unionism, the duty to look after each other in the community and the desire to build a society where wealth is created for the common good” (see: friendsofdurhamminersgala.org). That voice was this year represented by, among others, Frances O’Grady, leader of the Trade Unions Congress (TUC), two Cuban miners relaying very personal stories of individual oppression, Dennis Skinner MP and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn, arguably the biggest draw for the massive crowd. When he spoke of the real pressure faced by thousands, if not millions, of people up and down our country who worry about being able to feed or house themselves, about how they will cope with their debts or whether they will have work each day due to the insecure nature of their zero hours contract he struck a chord with many of us.

I first heard Corbyn speak at our Annual Delegate Conference in Brighton this May. There he promised that the next Labour government would repeal the harmful anti trade union legislation that has so restricted our ability to fully communicate with and represent our members in recent years. He also intends to restore national pay bargaining across the civil service. These two important measures would increase the influence of your trade union and reverse a decade of pay restraint, putting money back into the pockets of PCS members. If we have enough money to spend in the local economy we can, in turn, boost the economic prospects of our whole country.

If you’ve been reading the PCS website or the circulated briefings you’ll be aware that the PCS National Executive Committee (NEC) has voiced support for Jeremy Corbyn, working together with a variety of unions against the divisive attempts to unseat him (see: information-issued-on-support-for-corbyn). I know that some members are worried about PCS political affiliations so I want to make it clear that our current support for Corbyn does not mean that PCS is affiliated to the Labour party, indeed Motions A36, A37 and A38 were vigorously debated at conference and affiliation was defeated (see the latest PCS People Magazine for the PCS Conference 2016 Special Report at PCS People magazine).

PCS remains, by the democratic will of its members, independent of any political party. The only way that this will change is via the democratic processes of the union (see PCS web pages on - Making Union Policy). Perhaps next year’s conference will decide to officially affiliate, but only if you, our members, support such motions at our next mandating meeting.

EDITOR: It is with great sadness that we share the news that Dave Hopper, Chair of the Durham Miners Association has passed away. A former miner himself and a great supporter of the Trade Union Movement as a means of making the voice of the working class heard he will be sorely missed

Allison Huggins
PCS BPV Branch Equality Officer


Workplace stress:

[11/07/2016]

Incidents of workplace stress are on the rise, perhaps even exacerbated at the moment by the levels of anxiety felt by people on both sides of the EU referendum result two weeks ago. It's something that we all need to be more aware of if we're to reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health and create an environment where it's safe to talk.

John Halligan, Senior Union Support Officer for the North West TUC, spoke to the PCS Women’s Conference in Birmingham on Sunday 26th June about Mental Health in the workplace. He opened his talk with some startling statistics gathered from a variety of sources including the Mental Health Charity MIND, ACAS and The World Health Organisation. Do take a moment to ponder that…

The mood at #PCSwomen16 was quiet as we took those statistics on board. Many of the delegates, made up of PCS caseworkers and activists as well as ordinary PCS members like you, had experiences to share that backed up those statistics. I won't share those stories here out of a respect for the privacy of those members but suffice to say that mental ill health is common and if not affecting you directly, statistically it is certainly affecting at least some of your colleagues.

Good management and appropriate responses can make a real difference to your experiences at work and there are already some great, but underused, resources on our Departmental website. It is important that PCS members who are managers encourage other managers in their area take a look at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on the six potential causes of workplace stress. Adopting management styles that mitigate those causes can even prevent some of the worst effects of mental ill health on PCS members. There is a great tool available called the ‘Stress Reduction Plan’ which helps members, in discussions with their managers, to identify their main stress triggers and, if acted upon, the in-built action plan provides a framework for resolving or minimising issues and for identifying where reasonable adjustments might be appropriate. (...in addition to Departmental guidance see also: Causes of stress). Your local PCS reps have a wealth of knowledge and experience and can help you to get it right.

Allison Huggins
PCS BPV Branch Equality Officer


Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) and the Calais Refugees:

[05/07/2016]

Zita Holbourne, from the PCS National Executive Committee, spoke at the PCS Women’s seminar in Birmingham on 25th June in a short but powerful speech on the work of her charity BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts) and their involvement with an attempt last Saturday (18th June 2016) to take a large humanitarian convoy of over 250 lorries full of aid to the refugee camps at Calais.

While in France Zita’s colleagues saw and filmed a march within the camps led by highly educated Eritrean women asking for their rights as human beings to be honoured (available on YouTube). She spoke of how they are degraded by having only 30 toilets shared between several thousand women. How they had been separated from male relatives, sons, husbands, fathers and brothers, in order to become eligible for women only accommodation in a former holiday camp. How for the women this is preferable to living in flimsy tent like structures that is insecure and often destroyed by the weather. How pregnant women are walking several miles simply to have a shower at a humanitarian aid centre in a different town. About the dangers that women and children are facing in the camps on a daily basis. Essentially spelling out how much the aid in those 250 Lorries is desperately needed.

The convoy set off from Downing Street having booked out an entire Ferry but the French Authorities refused to allow the convoy to board turning them away at the port. Various reasons were given to each driver from security and terrorism risks, worries about ‘migrant traffic’ to the inability of the police to cope given the focus needed for the crowds of football fans enjoying the Euros. It’s amazing that an event of this scale didn’t make it onto the mainstream news channels when all of the aid collected by volunteers and well-wishers was forced to turn back.

The convoys will try again, indeed they set off every six weeks or so, usually in smaller numbers, and are regularly distributing essential items to anyone in need (not just the women mentioned above). There is a ‘go fund me’ account for anyone who wants to donate or to sponsor an aid convoy. There is also a room set aside at PCS headquarters in London as a pick-up point for donated items. (...for more information on how to get involved see: Black Activists Rising Against Cuts).

Allison Huggins
PCS BPV Branch Equality Officer


PCS women's seminar in Birmingham:

[01/07/2016]

Travelling back from the PCS women's seminar in Birmingham I picked up my newly purchased copy of National Executive Committee (NEC) member Zita Holbourne’s book ‘Striving for Equality Freedom and Justice’.

Her art and poetry is very moving, describing her childhood in Peckham and exploring ideas of culture and identity, motherhood, life experiences, activism and her support for those fleeing climate change, poverty and war.

As I read I began to worry that, despite my admiration, Zita and I have very little in common, very few shared experiences. This led me to ponder how much I understand of your different experiences as members in our branch - BAME members, disabled members, LGBT members, men, women, older, younger, those with caring responsibilities, those with different working patterns or members in all the grades.

How might one person, with a very personal window on the world, be effective as our Branch’s Equality Officer? Rather than being overwhelmed by that thought I gave myself permission to take it one step at a time, to listen to your stories and to tell you some of my own via this new Support.

I’ll do the very best that I can with the time I have available to widen my understanding of the issues that matter to you, whichever equality group you fall into.

I do hope that you enjoy, and are challenged and energised, by what you read here and that you’ll come into room BP2224 and talk to me and the other excellent PCS reps and Branch Officers you’ll find there.

Allison Huggins
PCS BPV Branch Equality Officer


Week of Action on PMR:

[01/07/2016]

Like many of you I was appalled by the shocking levels of injustice and inequality uncovered by Steve French of Keele University when he looked at the 2014-15 performance management data across 17 Civil Service Departments.

Commissioned by PCS, and based on data obtained from the Cabinet Office via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the study found that Men are less likely than women to have received an ‘exceed’ and more likely to be rated ‘must improve’. Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff do less well than those categorised as white. Disabled staff were less likely to receive an ‘exceed’ and more likely to receive a ‘must improve’ compared to non-disabled colleagues. Staff aged 16-29 were more likely to receive an ‘exceed’ rating and less likely to receive ‘must improve’ whereas the opposite was true for those over 60. Part Time staff were more likely to be rated ‘must improve’ and higher grade staff are more likely to be rated ‘exceed’.

These findings echo the experiences of your local reps who have worked determinedly with members to fight a large number of PMR appeals this year. Although we weren’t able to win them all we had some major successes where we could show that discrimination may have occurred, for example, where reasonable adjustments had not been put in place or where workplace stress had not been dealt with in a way that would have helped members to perform effectively. These were important wins helping to further discredit the system.

We should remember that many managers are PCS members too and that they are under unacceptable pressure to impose a system of guided distribution that they know to be discriminatory or face unfair performance ratings themselves.

Our Performance Management (PMR) process has inequality and injustice at its very core. So, in addition to the casework undertaken by your local reps, what is PCS doing about it?

Day One of #PCSwomen16 seminar this weekend (25th/26th June) was centred on practical ways that members and reps can support the PMR campaign. PCS has designated this week - 27th June to 1st July 2016 - as a week of action on PMR calling for the suspension of guided or forced distribution; a commitment that any linkage between pay and box markings is suspended; a commitment that any linkage between box marking and formal performance measures is suspended.

If you pick up one of our leaflets this week you’ll see that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), an executive agency connected with HMRC, has already bowed to PCS pressure and suspended guided distribution for the 16/17 performance year. You can help us win the same concessions for HMRC. The power of the Union comes from you, its members...

If you haven’t yet seen the full Keele University report you’ll find it in the PMR section of this website and it is contained in the documents library within the member’s area of the PCS website where you’ll also find some great guidance on PMR for managers, for members and an equality checklist. You’ll need your membership number, which you can find on the plastic cover of your latest PCS magazine or from our Branch Organiser Ringo Gebbie.

Look out for future Supports where I’ll talk about more key aspects of this year’s PCS Women’s Seminar including an inspiring speech by Hillsborough Campaigner Sheila Coleman, The work of NEC Member Zita Holbourne’s charity BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts), How to become a PCS Advocate and Stress and Mental Health in the Workplace.

Allison Huggins
PCS BPV Branch Equality Officer


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