Support victimised union reps – lobby of PCS Annual Delegate Conference

JP1Members of the PCS union are asking for support in lobbying their own union’s Annual Delegate Conference in May, as part of a campaign for greater help and support to victimised trade union reps.

A public lobby will take place outside the Brighton Centre from 12.30 till 2pm on Tuesday 19 May, ahead of the formal opening of Conference. Supporters are urged to attend and to bring union flags and banners. There is also a model motion to conference, which PCS members are urged to move at their branch Annual General Meetings.

The campaign, under the banner of ‘PCS – Support Your Members,’ sprang up in response to the treatment of former Hewlett Packard rep John Pearson. John was unfairly dismissed by his employer and won an employment tribunal to this effect, but was forced to do so without the support of his union.

PCS represents workers in the civil service and in private companies contracted to the government. John was secretary of its HP North West Branch when the employer shared statutory information regarding redundancies with him. In his capacity as a union official, and under instruction from his Branch Committee, John shared this information with members of the branch. For this act, he was at first suspended and then sacked.

An additional charge of bringing the company into disrepute was added to the first, due to John speaking to the media about an industrial dispute in his union capacity. This only underlined that John was being targeted for his trade union activities, a course of action prohibited by law.

PCS initially supported John, declaring his suspension an attack on the union. However, that support later disappeared, and John was left to stand alone.

In outrage at this turn of events, PCS members launched a John Pearson Defence Campaign to help John fund his employment tribunal. That tribunal would vindicate John, declaring that the information he shared could not reasonably be considered confidential and that HP had unfairly dismissed him as a result of his union activities.

With this result, it was hoped that PCS would rectify its previous lack of solidarity. Hundreds of people from PCS as well as from other unions signed an open letter to General Secretary Mark Serwotka urging support for John and steps to improve the process by which decisions on which employment tribunals gain union support are made.

Despite the open letter, a lobby of PCS HQ and a subsequent meeting with Mark Serwotka, there has been no movement on this issue from the union officials. As such the campaign will now target Conference as the union’s main decision-making body.

Lobby of PCS Annual Delegate Conference
The Brighton Centre, King’s Rd, Brighton, BN1 2GR
Tuesday 19 May, 12.30-14.00
All supporters welcome, bring flags and banners

Facebook event page here.

Add your name to the open letter here

Model motion for branch AGMs

This Annual Delegate Conference applauds former HP North West Branch Secretary John Pearson for achieving a verdict of unfair dismissal for trade union activity at Employment Tribunal, despite the appalling lack of support from his trade union.

Conference notes that:

  • John was dismissed from Hewlett-Packard in late 2013 on a charge of breaching company confidentiality;
  • This was initially condemned as an attack on the union by the PCS HP Group Secretary;
  • A few months later, with a work to rule still ongoing and a consultative ballot taking place in John’s branch, the Group Secretary informed John that the union was no longer taking action to seek remedy for him;
  • This resulted in John no longer being able to hold his position as branch secretary or as a member under PCS rules;
  • At last year’s ADC, a motion instructing the NEC to retrospectively support John was defeated following highly personalised and slanderous opposition;
  • As a result, John was forced to pursue his Employment Tribunal independently and to fund it himself, supported by donations from the John Pearson Defence Campaign launched by rank-and-file activists.

Conference agrees that what happened to John is a damning indictment of PCS in how it supports its own trade union reps. Conference censures the National Executive Committee and insists that this situation should never be allowed to repeat itself in our union.

John’s case has also thrown into sharp focus what Conference feels is a distinct lack of support from the union more generally regarding Employment Tribunals. Many reps will know the frustration at the willingness of PCS Legal to write off cases as unwinnable and withhold support, particularly in those instances where the rep has then gone on to win those cases.

Conference therefore instructs the NEC to:

  • Offer full retrospective support to John, including a reimbursement of the legal costs he paid out of his own pocket;
  • Provide a written guarantee that reps and activists victimised by their employer will receive full and unwavering support when fighting that victimisation, by all available means including ET, as a point of principle;
  • Put lay representatives in control of whether a case is taken to Employment Tribunal by setting up regional committees of experienced advocates whose role will be to evaluate whether a case should be pursued and to provide advice and support when it is;
  • Include in all future financial reports to Conference detail of the number of ETs pursued by the union, the percentage won, and the cost thereof.

Conference expects that support for John and written guarantee should be provided by August and that regional committees should be established by the end of the year.