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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 February 2014

Public and Commercial Services Union

Re-elect the fighting, campaigning leadership

Part of the PCS contingent on the 2011 N30 London demo, photo by Senan

Part of the PCS contingent on the 2011 N30 London demo, photo by Senan   (Click to enlarge)

The elections for the leadership of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will start soon. Nominations will close on 6 March.

The election will run through April and closes on 8 May. Socialist Party members who are standing include Chris Baugh for assistant general secretary (AGS), Janice Godrich for president and John McInally for vice-president.

A full list is available on

The Socialist interviewed assistant general secretary Chris Baugh about the election.

What difference do you think the left leadership has made to PCS?

The current leadership, of which I'm part, working with Mark Serwotka as general secretary and Janice Godrich as president, has built the union into a force prepared to speak and act on behalf of members.

We have been campaigning in defence of members' interests since 2004, when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown declared that 100,000 civil servants were surplus to requirements.

As a result of the leadership given in the union and the action taken by PCS members, we secured important protection in the form of a jobs protocol that has prevented compulsory redundancies.

The PCS leadership has played a pivotal role in organising PCS members and mobilising across public sector trade unions - like the action on pensions on 30 June 2011 and of course the massive public sector strike that we saw on 30 November the same year.

The activist culture that PCS promotes, the leadership we give and the work we do to organise opposition to the austerity programme, means that we are now targeted by the government, particularly Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude.

In the 1980s people used to claim that Margaret Thatcher attacked the trade unions because she was unpleasant.

That might be so, but the major reason she attacked the unions and the reason why Francis Maude is targeting PCS now is because we are an obstacle to the employer and government's plans to attack our members' pay, jobs and conditions.

It reinforces the need for trade unions in the civil service and a vibrant form of trade unionism that reaches out to the young and the unorganised.

The emergence of a right-wing candidate for AGS makes it even more important for branches to nominate me for AGS and the full Democracy Alliance slate for the president, vice-presidents and the national executive.

What do you think are the main issues facing PCS at the moment?

We are faced with the biggest attack on the pay, jobs and conditions of PCS members in living memory.

And an attack on trade union rights in the form of a cut in facility time. Increasing numbers of our reps are being victimised and targeted by the employer. Now there is a threat to the check-off method of collecting union subscriptions.

Our members have suffered a 14% cut in living standards on average. There is now a threat to progression within pay grades. Increasing numbers of members are struggling to make ends meet.

PCS needs to reach out across the wider trade union movement against the pay freeze. A pay rise for public sector workers is not just beneficial to our members but can encourage other workers to fight low pay.

We have continued to argue that the most effective way of standing up to austerity is a common response - not by the public sector alone but the wider trade union movement.

Chris Baugh, photo by Senan

Chris Baugh, photo by Senan   (Click to enlarge)

PCS will continue to enforce the terms of a jobs protocol that avoids compulsory redundancy. We will continue to call for proper staffing levels and to challenge the cuts that are being inflicted across every department agency and public body.

It should never be forgotten that all of our terms and conditions including flexible working hours, maternity and paternity leave and sick pay were not gifted. They were won and will be defended through union activity.

PCS needs a leadership which continues to support the membership at group level and demands central negotiations and a national framework agreement.

We need a leadership that is prepared to mobilise against the growing threat of privatisation. We argue that in the interests of our members and the wider public that the delivery of these services is best achieved through the public sector.

PCS has defeated proposals by Siemens and in Hewlett Packard to offshore jobs and our members' work. The current dispute taking place around Shared Services is about defending union rights, defending our members' pay, terms and conditions and also defeating the proposals to offshore 50% of the work.

The 30 November strike was a high point in coordinated action against austerity. Do you think we can take that approach further against the background of continuing attacks?

The decision of certain unions to step back from that dispute after 30 November was a terrible tactical mistake.

The consequence, far from producing a respite, is that the government has become even more emboldened.

We need to rebuild both the momentum and the broad opposition to austerity, reflected in a sustained public campaign including industrial action.

But this must also reach out to all those fighting austerity, including local anti-cuts groups, pensioners, students, etc.

It is essential that the trade union movement leads from the front and uses that latent power to organise a coordinated, mass, sustained fightback.

There is a view that we should just keep our heads down and wait for a Miliband-led Labour government - what's your reaction to that?

It would be a mistake to simply await the outcome of the next general election. It is essential that we continue to organise in defence of quality public services.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has shown that a future Labour government would effectively live within many of the spending plans set out by Osborne.

The trade union movement needs to continue to use its industrial power to provide the maximum protection for its members.

But it also raises questions of political representation. The Labour Party has long abandoned the interests of working class people and it is absolutely essential that PCS works with others to support candidates who are prepared to fight for the interests of PCS members and working people generally.

I'm pleased to say that, after an extensive consultation exercise, PCS members have already voted in favour of the union doing this.

Joint action is the way forward for the unions

John Mcinally, PCS national vice-president, recently wrote (in a personal capacity) in the Socialist Party's magazine Socialism Today about why PCS believes joint coordinated industrial action is still the way forward. This is a short extract:

"In this period of austerity when we are under relentless attack, our movement must get back to fundamentals.

"The job of a union is not to negotiate cuts in pay and conditions but to fight to defend and improve what we have.

"That is why the whole movement must oppose and organise to defeat the destruction of the welfare state and the NHS.

Strike action is our main weapon so we need to develop the strategy and tactics to ensure we use it effectively in our collective interest. That is why PCS is now posing the question straight - we are in favour of joint coordinated industrial action to defeat the cuts - will you join us?"

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In The Socialist 5 February 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Bedroom tax beaten in Scotland

Who's robbing our NHS?

Trade unions - time to break Labour link is now!

Labour taxing the rich? Balls

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Sochi winter Olympics - -breaking all records!

Ukraine: battling forces no friends of working class

Reports and campaigns

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference

Socialist Students: Preparing for struggles to come

Cameron's cruel cuts hammer the homeless

Floods: fully-funded environmental planning needed

Stop 98 million cuts in Worcestershire

Fleetwood: MP tries to evade hospital campaigners

Building the Socialist Party

Socialist Party workplace news

Stop the tube cuts: Support the strikes!

PCS: Re-elect fighting, campaigning leadership

NUT national executive agrees date for national strike

Yorks ambulance workers strike again

Preparing action in Lewisham

Royal Opera House workers win living wage

Future Directions dispute settled

Tebay: RMT rally

Readers' comments

Who supported the 1984-85 miners' strike?

Pete Seeger - Sound of US protest movement

Osborne claims recovery - super-exploitation is reality


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