The Times – Undercover at the DVLA

My old friend Bob Robinson brought my attention to this particular piece of undercover journalism:- *

Now those who know me well will recall that I was a trade union officer within PCS but not, I might add, in this particular government department. However, what struck me was that in the years prior to my retirement (4 years ago now) I was hearing about the strained industrial relations at DVLA. On that basis, my guess is that some of the underlying issues pre-date Covid 19 and in many ways, if industrial relations are poor things will only get worse until good relations are established.

Is PCS at least partly to blame for this unfortunate situation as I think the podcast is questioning? In my experience poor industrial relations nearly always come about because of poor management and a failure to reasonably consult with the elected union representatives of a workforce. I saw some ups and downs in the government department I worked within and ups were created by good senior managers and downs by bad senior managers. The tone is set at the top of the management tree and if it’s an inclusive tone based on wanting to consult a workforce and take them along a journey of change then the chances are things will go reasonably well. Set a dictatorial tone and the opposite will happen.

Many senior managers I worked/negotiated with consulted me about changes and potentially difficult matters at a very early stage and I encouraged them to do so. They did it because they knew I’d give them considered answers and issues that may create difficulties could then be headed off at the pass so to speak. Of course, if the difficulties came from a governmental edict then senior managers were sometimes as challenged as much the union would be.

* Scroll through the list of podcasts to find ‘Undercover at the DVLA’

Lib Dems defending trade union rights

An article by Newshound from Lib Dem Voice

Well, there’s a turn-up for the books. A former Business Secretary teams up with the head of the TUC to warn about the draconian effects of the Trade Union Bill introduced by the Government.

In an article for the Guardian, Vince Cable and Frances O’Grady say that the Bill is trying to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist. Anyone who was brought up in the 70s would surely find it hard to argue that today is even remotely as bad as it was then. They say:

“Strikes, when they happen, are not always popular. The public, and business, face disruption. Strikers themselves lose pay. But the right to withdraw labour as a last resort in industrial disputes is fundamental to free societies, as the European Convention on Human Rights recognises.”

“Moreover, it is far from obvious that Britain has a “strike problem”. There have been periods in 20th-century history of intense industrial strife. But in the 1990s and 2000s strikes accounted for well under a million days a year. The trend continued under the coalition, despite strong disagreements over pay, pensions and redundancies. The 6.5 million British people who belong to a union – just over a quarter of the labour force and over half of public sector workers – withdrew their labour, on average, for one day in 15 years.”

Of course, the Tories wanted to bring in this Bill during the coalition years, but the Liberal Democrats stopped them:

“Several major changes are envisaged, all of which were considered by the coalition and rejected on their merits by Lib Dem ministers (who had absolutely no self-interest in defending trade unions that sometimes seemed as angry with them as the Conservatives, if not more). But the Lib Dems simply regarded the proposals as ideologically driven, unnecessary and bad policy.”

After looking at the proposals in detail, they conclude that there is a much better way to prevent strikes – constructive dialogue:

“The Conservative proposals are ideological rather than practical and have a weak evidential and legal basis. An opportunity is being missed to work with unions on a positive and forward-looking basis. Unions represent a substantial and, now, growing proportion of the workforce. Many good employers, private and public sector, work constructively with unions to raise productivity, and thence pay. As the TUC has argued, we should be seeking to strengthen industrial democracy, involving the workforce in genuine consultation around the transition to a digital age, in training and worker education and – yes – in pay differentials from top to bottom.”

The Tories should not forget that GB is the land of free speech

For Government to even suggest that trade unions should be restricted in their use of social media is very alarming. The Tories should remember that they often say this is a free county, yet their actions via this pathetic excuse for a present Government indicate that what they want to do is to restrict freedom for those they disapprove of.

Removing rights by chucking out the Human Rights Act, snooping on our e-mails (as Labour was also keen on during their appalling identity card phase) and now suggesting that trade unions may need to give notice of social media use during industrial action is more like the actions of despots than an elected government.

Vince Cable condemns Tory strike ballot plans


Vince Cable has criticised Conservative proposals to make it harder to call industrial action affecting health services, transport, fire or schools. Under the plans, the backing of 40% of eligible union members would be required for strike action to go ahead. The Liberal Democrat MP said: “Setting a mandatory 40% level of support for strike action seems odd when MPs do not need to reach such a high hurdle to get elected… Industrial relations in the UK are good and the Conservatives would do well to turn their attention to creating a fairer society.”

Cable: Strike law change “potty”

Vince Cable has described David Cameron’s plans to change strike laws as “simply potty”. It is understood that the Conservatives are considering plans to legislate that strikes can only be held if a threshold of 50% of the membership is reached in any ballot.

Don’t you just love it when politicians say what they really mean rather than communicating with us in ‘Westminster’ speak. A potty Tory policy indeed!

With thanks to the LGiU for the lead to this story.

Tories stir up union trouble in Civil Service

Liberal Democrats have described a move by Conservative ministers to stop Whitehall departments deducting trade union subscriptions from civil servants’ pay packets as a “vindictive attack.” Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has written to departments urging them to end the “check-off” system of deducting union subs through Whitehall’s payroll system, but his request is set to be ignored in ministries headed by Lib Dems. A leading advocate of ending “check-off” is Eric Pickles, who last year lost a court case when he tried to scrap the system in the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Today’s Press:- i, Page: 4 The Independent, Page: 15 Daily Mirror, Page: 11

As someone who spent many years working for the trade union movement in the Civil Service I understand what this ‘check-off’ system is about. For generations Civil Servants have paid their union subscriptions via direct deductions from their monthly salaries/wages by the Government Dep’t they work for. The money is then paid over to the appropriate trade union they belong to.

Also for generations, despite the odd Thatcher type blip, Governments have encouraged Civil Servants to join trade unions. This, in general, has enabled the Civil Service to have fairly reasonable industrial relations.

Why on earth the Tories want to cause industrial strife in the Civil Service via this petty idea of stopping the collection of union subs baffles me. It can only be driven by that infamous ‘them and us’ approach to industrial relations that has bedeviled the UK for so many years. A good employer embraces good industrial relations; the success of the German economy since the Second World War proves that.

With thanks to the LGiU for the lead to this story.