Support the EHRC strikes on 9 and 16 November

7 November 2016

Support the EHRC strikes on 9 and 16 November

From PCS

7 November 2016

Support PCS and Unite members at the government’s equality watchdog striking on Wednesday (9 November) and 16 November over cuts that PCS says would make it impossible for the agency to function.

Our union is taking action alongside colleagues in Unite after workers at the Equality and Human Rights Commission were told to expect a 25% budget cut and threatened with compulsory redundancies. This follows a 70% cut to the commission’s budget since 2010. Nineteen of the first 26 posts due to be axed are held by staff in the three lowest paid grades, meaning the government body responsible for protecting vulnerable workers is itself disproportionately targeting older, ethnic minority and disabled staff. The commission’s new structure, which would mean fewer caseworkers supporting victims of discrimination and the closure of offices in Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle, and could threaten the agency’s United Nations ‘A’ status as a national human rights institution.

The commission has refused to consider alternative sources of savings, including the high cost of employing non-payroll consultants – with almost £1.2 million last year paid to just 8 staff. It plans to issue compulsory redundancy notices just before Christmas.

Big mandate

In a ballot, 82% of the union’s members at EHRC voted for strikes and 90% for other forms of industrial action, on a 64.7% turnout.

The cuts would mean fewer caseworkers supporting victims of discrimination and could threaten the agency’s United Nations ‘A’ status as a national human rights institution.

The union, which represents three quarters of the 190 commission staff, says this would seriously undermine EHRC’s ability to tackle the rise in hate crime after the Brexit vote.

No agreement at Acas

Both unions tried very hard to reach an agreement with the commission at Acas late last month but we could not get a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies or even a process which would mitigate against them. We proposed a set of measures which would ensure staff were treated fairly through the remaining phases of the selection processes for those who wanted to remain working at the commission. There is clearly no need to make anyone compulsorily redundant.

The body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws in England, Wales and Scotland seems to have failed its own staff as

We did ask the commission for an extension to our ballot mandate so that we could keep on talking without taking strike action and having to re-ballot members, but this was refused – effectively forcing our hand in terms of industrial action.

We fear that there will be attempts to reduce head count further over the coming months and years. This means further redundancies could be in the pipeline.

The commission has said it will now take away the things we agree upon because the unions are still in dispute. This is completely unreasonable. Anything good that has come out of negotiations up until now should be kept on the table.

Both PCS and Unite are prepared to go back to Acas at any time to find a resolution to the dispute.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “While division and hatred are being fostered in our communities in the wake of the Brexit vote, this Tory government is cutting the staff whose job it is to combat this.

“We will not stand by and allow the commission to cut low paid staff who provide daily support to victims of discrimination, while it spends hundreds of thousands of pounds on consultants.”

What you can do to help

Send messages of support to to londonbargaining@pcs.org.uk

Show your support on picket lines from 7am at the following sites:

Manchester
EHRC
Arndale House
M4 3EQ

Glasgow
EHRC
West George Street
G2 2JJ

Birmingham
EHRC
Victoria Square House
Victoria Square
B2 4AJ

Cardiff
EHRC
Government Buildings
St Agnes Road
CF14 4YJ

London
EHRC
Fleetbank House
Salisbury Square
EC4Y 8JX

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