PCS says ‘We will not manufacture a dispute’ against Atos

Public and Commercial Services Union

On Thursday 14 February, members of the expanding Glasgow Against Atos (GAA) campaign including an FRFI supporter met with representatives of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union to discuss how the PCS could help GAA fight against welfare cutbacks. GAA was set up in October 2012 as a broad-based campaign following successful pickets of Atos initiated by Glasgow FRFI.

GAA supporters presented the PCS representatives with the evidence of the many statements and motions the union has approved promising support for community campaigns. Shamefully, the PCS representatives confirmed that the union will not take a specific stand against ATOS in solidarity with the sick and disabled facing the company’s punitive assessment regime. Their response proved the political limitations of trade unionism which places sectional interests before the interests of the working class as a whole.

The PCS position essentially is that their Atos members’ interests come first and foremost and the degrading and sometimes fatal consequences for sick and disabled people come second. Jas McGuinness, PCS shop steward for administrative workers employed in Atos offices, gave the age old excuse ‘that it was only a job’ and Alan Brown, PCS representative for Department of Work and Pensions workers, explained that ‘if you beat Atos the government will just hire another company to do the assessment’.

In response to a question ‘why doesn’t PCS make a moral stand against an immoral system’, Brown told GAA that ‘I know what your saying...the bad laws are there to be broken but we can’t do that’, adding that ‘we won’t tell our members not to do the job...leaving them open to dismissal...or leaving the union open to legal action...we will not manufacture a dispute’. In other words, the union is not going to break anti-trade union laws.

For anyone who has been subjected to Atos work assessments, Brown’s statement about ‘manufacturing a dispute’ will not make sense: there is clearly already a dispute, between Atos/DWP on the one hand, and sick and disabled people on the other. Surely Britain’s ‘most active’ trade union would stand on the side of the people suffering cutbacks? In reality, no. The PCS position is not based on unity and solidarity between all sections of the working class: it is limited to defending the narrow interests of the union and its members. These narrow interests are being defended at the expense of poorer, more oppressed sections of the working class. For all its apparent militancy, the PCS organises amongst sections of government bureaucracy which stand in an oppressive relationship to the rest of the working class: not just in the DWP, but also in the Crown Prosecution Service, UK Borders Agency (UKBA), the defence sector and the Metropolitan Police.

For all their talk, the trade unions in practice refuse to break the anti-trade union laws. It means they will not even defend their own members: challenging a council over cuts programmes would be deemed as political since cuts are a matter of government or council policy. So they collaborate rather than fight. This is all the more the case with the PCS: it ends up abjectly on the side of Atos against sick and disabled people. We therefore have to ask: if the millions of pounds worth of assets which the PCS and other British trade unions hold are not used or sacrificed in the interests of the working class, what purpose do they serve, other than to line the pockets of the now widely hated union bureaucrats who parade around Britain promising action that never arrives?

Unite against ATOS!

Oppose trade union collaboration with the cuts and the anti-trade union laws!

Action not words!


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