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.

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Report – Sofia and John’s lobby of PCS

Sofia Azam and John Pearson attended the PCS Headquarters building on Tuesday 2 December, in order to lobby members of the union’s Natonal Executive Committee (NEC) which was meeting on that date. They understood that reports were going to the meeting on the respective negative decisions of the National Disputes Committee (NDC) on the applications for support in their legal cases.

While they were present, the union’s Vice President, Kevin McHugh, came out to talk to them. He informed them that, in respect of both cases, if they were to meet the General Secretary and President to discuss the issues raised, then the NDC’s decisions would be reviewed.

At Kevin’s request, Sofia and John both promptly confirmed in writing to Mark Serwotka’s office manager their willingness to meet Mark Serwotka and Janice Godrich, even though they regarded this action as superfluous. John had already confirmed in writing to Mark Serwotka on two previous occasions – 24 October and 11 November – his acceptance of Mark’s offer of a meeting, and Sofia had done likewise – on 24 October and 7 November. No replies were received by either of them to offer any dates for an appointment and this remains the situation, one week after the NEC meeting.

Sofia and John are thus forced to consider whether the Vice-President was being used by the union’s most senior officials to carry out a ‘body swerve’, in order to forestall any possibility of the NEC overturning the NDC decisions.

The public campaigns of both Sofia and John will continue.

They are continuing to lobby support from other PCS branches and from PCS members and other trade unionists. Crucially, it is important to get more signatures on the open letter, whether or not Mark Serwotka and Janice Godrich are telling the truth about being prepared to meet us and offer any meeting dates.

Sign the open letter to Mark Serwotka here.

Support sacked reps’ lobby of the PCS NEC

Two former PCS reps who were dismissed for their trade union activities, John Pearson and Sofia Azam, are calling for support at their joint lobby / demo outside PCS HQ from 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday 2 December 2014. This is to coincide with the start of the monthly meeting of the union’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

The NEC is due to receive reports from the union’s National Disputes Committee, which has reiterated refusal of official support for John despite his victory in a claim of automatically unfair dismissal on the grounds of union activities at the Employment Tribunal. The same committee has declined an application from Sofia for support for an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, in a case which has very substantial similarities to John’s successful case. John had been represented by a private solicitor after union officials initially refused support on the grounds that his case supposedly had no reasonable prospect of success, whilst Sofia had been represented by the union’s solicitors but had been unsuccessful at the first tier Tribunal.

In a letter (PDF) to John dated 24 November, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka reports a decision of the union’s National Disputes Committee, which comprises the most senior union officers, to decline John’s request made 3 months earlier for the union to pay his legal expenses, reinstate his union membership and support him in securing reinstatement to his job following his Tribunal win. Serwotka said that the reason was that John had not followed the advice of the full time official in defending himself against the employer’s actions.

John and Sofia say:

We will send a request to NEC members in advance, to come out and talk to us, instead of just accepting what they are spoon fed by General Secretary Mark Serwotka and the union’s full time officials.

We were both sacked for directly carrying out duties as union branch officers, on the instructions of our Branch Executive Committees. John sent to union members details of the information on proposed redundancies that his employer was statutorily obliged to supply to the union for the purposes of consultation. Sofia was sacked for sending details of the grading of posts following a staffing restructure. In both cases, the employers tried to block union involvement by improperly attaching a ‘confidential’ stamp to industrial relations data which the union members affected had a right and an interest in being presented to them by their elected union representatives.

After hearing 3 days of sworn evidence, including testimony from 5 of John’s witnesses and 3 of the employer’s witnesses, the Tribunal decided that John was carrying out a legitimate union duty and, crucially, that the information, “provided for consultation purposes, could not be properly considered to be confidential“. Had the union instructed its solicitors to fight Sofia’s Tribunal case on the same basis, she would in all probability have won. Instead, they fought Sofia’s case on the grounds that she was contritious for having mistakenly circulated the material. In John’s case, the union full time official (FTO) would not contest the employer’s assertion that it had a right to decide what information supplied to the union is or is not ‘confidential’. The FTO wanted to accompany John to disciplinary hearings to plead for clemency. John’s approach has been proven to have been absolutely correct. His dismissal was unlawful because, despite all the attacks that have been made on union organisation, there is still legal protection against suffering dismissal, or detriment short of dismissal, for carrying out union activities.

PCS is a union which is led by left-wingers, including members of the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party. It used to have a perspective of rank and file control. The notion that the union will only represent elected officers and reps who agree with the full time officer’s advice flies in the face of such a perspective. The contrasting cases of John and Sofia show which approach is correct.

Lobby of PCS in support of victimised reps
PCS HQ, 160 Falcon Road, London, SW11 2BR
(5 minutes from Clapham Junction train station)
12.30pm Tuesday 2 December

Open letter to Mark Serwotka

[Update 24/10/14: Mark Serwotka’s response to this letter is now available online.]

Mark Serwotka
General Secretary
Public & Commercial Services Union
160 Falcon Road
LONDON
SW11 2LN

Dear Mark,

REDRESS FOR JOHN PEARSON AND SUPPORT FOR EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNALS

We are writing this letter to you following the verdict of an Employment Tribunal that former HP North West Branch secretary John Pearson was unfairly dismissed from his job as a result of his trade union activities.

You should already be aware of John’s case, as you wrote to him confirming that his membership of PCS had ceased since the union was not seeking redress for him. Since then, John funded his own ET in order to secure the verdict in his favour, which as he was victimised for his activity on behalf of PCS he should never have been forced to do.

John’s case has also thrown into sharp focus what we feel is a distinct lack of support from the union more generally regarding ETs. Many reps have voiced their 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.

As you know, we are currently facing a concerted attack on employment rights from the current government, including the imposition of fees to take up an ET. This has resulted in a drop of 70% in ETs being heard overall. We feel that the appropriate response to this includes fighting to ensure that ET cases for our members are heard, not becoming even more cautious in what cases we take up, as appears to be the case.

We are writing to you because we feel that this situation needs redress, and urgently. In particular, we demand the following:

  • Full support for John from PCS as he pursues reinstatement following his ET verdict, and full recompense for the legal costs he has paid at his own expense;
  • 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;
  • Steps to rectify the drop in the number of ET cases being pursued, including putting experienced lay rep advocates in control of whether a case is taken forward, ring-fencing funding for cases and encouraging the training of more rep advocates.

Please be aware that a copy of this letter will be published online, where we will be inviting more PCS reps and members to sign their names to it. We will also publish your response once we receive it.

Yours sincerely,

(All named individuals have signed in a personal capacity)
John Pearson, former PCS HP North West Branch
Sofia Azam, PCS Ofqual Branch
Jon Bigger, former PCS IPS London & South Branch
PCS DWP Sheffield Branch
PCS R&C London South Thames Branch
PCS DWP Cheshire Branch
PCS HO West Croydon Branch
PCS R&C Edinburgh Branch
Phil Dickens, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Charlie Wilson, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Helen Sheridan, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Sarah Malone, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Margi Henderson, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Tony Hand, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Shaun Fielding, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Ian Mercer, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Ray O’Connor, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
John Byrne, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Dave Gibbons, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Nikki Burns, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Phil Millar, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Iain Yell, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Nicola Stuart, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Natasha Fegan, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Sharon O’Neill, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Chris Wood, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Phil Murphy, PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Paul Jamieson, former PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Steph Summers, former PCS Bootle Taxes Branch
Gerry Noble, PCS Bootle St John’s House Branch
Victoria Cuckson, PCS Bootle St John’s House Branch
Rebecca Girven, PCS Bootle St John’s House Branch
Colette Brough, PCS Bootle St John’s House Branch
Denise Blundell, PCS Bootle St John’s House Branch
Ian Hough, PCS R&C West Mercia Branch
Jim Molloy, PCS R&C West Mercia Branch
Helen Balder, PCS R&C West Mercia Branch
Steve Ryan, PCS R&C North West & North Wales Branch
Gary Stein, PCS R&C Edinburgh Branch
Dougie Mirren, PCS R&C Edinburgh Branch
Dee Leary, former PCS R&C Bristol West Country Branch
Dave Plummer, former PCS R&C Euston Tower Branch
Kelsey Yarr, PCS R&C Northern Ireland Revenue Branch
Brian Keenan, PCS R&C Northern Ireland Revenue Branch
Jayne Pinder, PCS ARMS
Gavin Wood, PCS ARMS
Dianne Booth, PCS ARMS
Karen Merritt, PCS ARMS
Bill Taylor, PCS ARMS
Kerry Fairless, PCS R&C South East Essex Branch
Darrell Binding, PCS R&C South East Essex Branch
Les Hesarson, PCS R&C South East Essex Branch
Ron Johnson, PCS R&C South East Essex Branch
Ian Pope, former PCS R&C South East Essex Branch
Hamish Drummond, PCS R&C Dundee Branch
Tracy Walker, PCS DWP Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Branch
Ciaran Battle, PCS R&C Northumberland and Durham Branch
Chris Marks, PCS DWP Cheshire Branch
Annette Wright, PCS DWP Manchester & Salford Branch
Mark Chapman, PCS R&C Aberdeen & Inverness Branch
Helen Hartley, PCS R&C Liverpool & Netherton Branch
Martyn Mellis, PCS R&C Anglia Branch
Bev Laidlaw, PCS DWP Sheffield Branch
Lee Rock, PCS DWP Sheffield Branch
Alex Leach, PCS CPS Yorks and Humber Branch
Ian Edmunson, PCS DWP Bolton & Bury Branch
Lance Keeley, PCS DWP Bolton & Bury Branch
Karen Alderson, PCS HMPO Northern Branch
David Griffiths, PCS IPS North West Branch
James Leader, PCS IPS North West Branch
Brian Benjamin, PCS IPS North West Branch
Emily Rainey, PCS R&C Central Valuation Branch
Craig Ward, PCS R&C Central Valuation Branch
Gary Humphrey, PCS R&C Solway Branch
Philip Harvey, PCS DSG Lecofield Branch
Ady Pymer, PCS DSG Lecofield Branch
Nick Diamantis, PCS DWP South London Branch
Russell Carr, PCS Tate Galleries Branch
Debbie Murfitt, PCS London North Branch
Patricia Doran, PCS DWP Brent Harrow and Hillingdon Branch
Victoria Ronson, PCS HP North West Branch
Patrick Donovan, PCS HP North West Branch
Shaun Ankers, PCS HP North West Branch
Helen Hoban, PCS HP North West Branch
Keith Hartley, PCS HP North West Branch
Andrew Benson, PCS HP North West Branch
Andria Scott, PCS HP North West Branch
Nigel Kelleher, Former PCS HP North West Branch
Paul Higgins, Former PCS HP North West Branch
Glyn Hinchcliffe, Former PCS HP North West Branch
Gerard Vaughn, PCS Home Office Midlands Branch
Clive Taylor, PCS DWP South East Wales Branch
Sie Houghton, PCS R&C Waterview Park Branch
Mike Bosman, PCS Home Office West London Branch
Lisa Marie, PCS DCLG National Branch
Paulette Romain, PCS DCLG National Branch
Karen Johnson, PCS DCLG National Branch
Abbie Harrison, PCS DCLG National Branch
Stuart Gosden, PCS DCLG National Branch
Shaun Cohen, PCS DCLG National Branch
Sandra Chapman, PCS DCLG National Branch
David Jones, PCS DCLG National Branch
Alexandra Allport, PCS R&C Stockton & North Yorks Branch
Helen Wylie, PCS R&C Stockton & North Yorks Branch
Graham Allport, PCS R&C Stockton & North Yorks Branch
Adele Berry, PCS R&C North West and Central Lancashire Branch
Simon Chilton, Former PCS Salford Revenue Branch
Sarah Baskerville, PCS DfT Branch
Andrew Gilfillan, PCS DfT Branch
Eddie Childs, former PCS MOJ West Yorks Branch
Chris Roberts, PCS Heathrow Branch
Steve Finch, PCS DWP Wigan Area Branch
Jane Jones, PCS DWP Wigan Area Branch
Iain Wright, PCS DWP Manchester and Salford Branch
Gaz Lawton, PCS DWP Manchester and Salford Branch
Kevin Hunt, PCS DWP Manchester and Salford Branch
Jamie Raine, PCS DWP Manchester & Salford Branch
Mayuri Patel, PCS DfE Central London Branch
Jenny Richardson, PCS DWP Bucks and Ox Branch
James Hogan, PCS DWP Liverpool Branch
Ann Tuft, PCS DWP North Merseyside Branch
Robert Storey, PCS DWP North Merseyside Branch
Ray Nelson, PCS MoJ Manchester and Salford Branch
George Matthews, PCS Bush House London
Julie Newton, PCS Met Police Group South East London Branch
Betty Old, PCS R&C North West England Branch
Hugh Thompson, PCS R&C North West England Branch
Patrick Thompson, former PCS DWP Glasgow South Branch
Mark Walsh, PCS North West
Gary Singleton, PCS North West
Michael Brownwood, PCS North West
Chris Holmes, PCS North West
Jim Green, PCS North West
Mark Winter, PCS North West
Andrew Bennett, PCS North West
Sam Kelly, PCS MMO Branch
Sean Hanson, PCS R&C Benton Park View
Michael Dellow, PCS R&C Northumberland & Durham Branch
Wendy Turner, PCS R&C West Midlands Branch
George Thompson, PCS DWP North East London Branch
Tony Horsfield, PCS Distinguished Life Member DfE Group
Patricia Doran, PCS DWP Brent Harrow and Hillingdon Branch
Wullie Clark, PCS SG West and Central Scotland Branch
Anne Bentley, PCS Birkenhead
Gareth Jennings, PCS DWP
Paul Dolan, PCS Lytham
Michelle Caddick, PCS Lytham
David Stead, PCS DWP Tyneview Park Branch
Spencer Davies, PCS DWP Tyneview Park Branch
Dave Putson, PCS MoJ London Courts Branch
Elsa Annushka Nigro, PCS HCA London & National Branch
Jawid Iqbal, PCS DfT West Midlands Branch
Nina Laithwaite, PCS Wigan Area
Paul Jones, PCS HMPO North West Branch
Matt Wells, PCS Branch 001026
Steven Mulholland, PCS National Museums Liverpool
Lynne Hows, PCS DWP Wirral Branch
Jim McDonald, PCS Cornwall, Devon & Somerset Branch
Geraint Ashley, PCS R&C South East Wales Branch
Tom Mc Geown, PCS Belfast
Maria Dougan, UNISON Liverpool City Branch
Steven Revins, UNISON Birmingham LG Branch
Roger Thompson, UNISON Tameside LG Branch
Steve Cooke, UNISON Redcar & Cleveland Branch
Iain Montgomery, UNISON retired member
Clive Norris, UNISON Nottingham City Branch
Dean Fowler, UNISON Devon County Council Branch
Ruth Wilson, UNISON NHS Oldham Branch
Peter Davies, UNISON Cardiff County Branch
Holly Smith, GMB Brighton Branch
Tracy Campbell (no union/branch listed)
Phil Walden (no union/branch listed)
Laurence Rimington (no union/branch listed)
Felicity Dowling, NUT Cheshire West Branch
Pete McLaren, NUT Coventry Branch
Roger Silverman, NUT Redbridge Branch
James Griffiths, UNITE Community Derby Branch
Danny Thomas, UNITE Community London & Eastern Branch
David Landau, UNITE Community London & Eastern Branch
David Connor, UNITE Community North East YH Branch
Glen Hurst, UNITE South East Branch
Sharza Dethick, UNITE Stockport Branch
Stuart Crosthwaite, UNITE Community Sheffield Branch
Alison Treacher, UNITE Stockport Branch
Saira Weiner, UCU NEC member
Patrick Stack, UNIA (Switzerland)
Steve Wilson, Class War – Newcastle Upon Tyne

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