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Court Confirms Left Victory
FIFTEEN YEARS of the extreme right wing controlling the general secretary position of the PCS civil service union ended dramatically in court 16 of the High Court on 31 July.
There, the judge ruled that Mark Serwotka's election by the membership as general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) was valid and that the extreme right winger who had been general secretary, Barry Reamsbottom, had been wrong to attempt to overturn that election result.
Speaking after the court case Mark Serwotka said: "Today is a fantastic victory for the members of our union and for all those committed to a democratic union run by its membership. Barry Reamsbottom no longer has any standing in our union and as of now I am the general secretary.
"This represents a fantastic achievement for all those in our union who believe that when the members speak, the members' decision must be sacrosanct. This has been an extraordinarily difficult time but now there is a job of work to be done.
"Myself and Janice Godrich are going back to union headquarters to get on with the important work for which we were elected: for national pay bargaining in the civil service; for an end to low pay and discrimination; for an end to privatisation of public-sector jobs and for a strong union that stands up for its members on all the issues that matter.
"We have seen today democracy upheld and now we need to carry out the policies we have to protect our members, which I commit myself to upholding."
PCS President Janice Godrich told The Socialist: "I am absolutely delighted at the court decision which upheld the fundamental issue of union democracy. With Mark, I now want to deliver to the members an end to low pay and privatisation and build confidence in our union."
The newly confirmed national leaders now have to ensure they win the backing of the membership in the battle against this hostile right-wing, who will attempt to obstruct any attempts to deliver on pay, against privatisation and protecting the interests of the union's 280,000 members.
It has been well documented in The Socialist that this group has links with sinister anti-union front organisations of the US State Department.
This is something Mark Serwotka acknowledged when he said after the court hearing: "I now expect all officials to accept and respect the members' decision to elect me PCS general secretary and to work with me to implement conference policy. If anyone cannot, then they should consider their future in PCS. Members would expect nothing less."
THE JUDGE further agreed that Reamsbottom would not have leave to appeal and that he no longer had any official connection with the union. Although costs for both sides had been met by the union until this stage, the judge said that any further action Reamsbottom may consider would be as a private individual and that he would have to bear his own costs.
In what will be remembered as a landmark ruling, this confirms the trend for anti-establishment candidates to win election as union general secretaries and the removal of a rotten right-wing leadership in a number of key trade unions. The ruling also upheld the right of PCS President Janice Godrich to declare the union's national executive committee (NEC) meeting held on 23 May 2002 as invalid.
At that meeting the right wing, which has a 20-12 majority after elections held earlier this year, attempted at Reamsbottom's instigation to prevent Mark Serwotka from taking up his post as general secretary on 1 June this year.
That was a date agreed by Reamsbottom, Mark Serwotka and the previous NEC where Reamsbottom would quit as joint general secretary and receive an over-generous compensation package under what is known as the "Compromise Agreement".
The court ruling ends one of the biggest battles in the civil service unions since John Macreadie (then a supporter of Militant, forerunner of the Socialist Party, and now a Socialist Party member) won the general secretary election in the CPSA in 1987.
That ruling was challenged then by the right wing who obtained a High Court ruling to order a re-run of that general secretary election. This was won by the right-wing candidate who mysteriously received 20,000 more votes than he had done in the first election.
Since then, the right wing have implemented a tyrannical regime, carried on into the PCS, where suspicions of improprieties and intimidation by them have been rife. Currently there are investigations into misuse of the union's database in the recent NEC elections. A report commissioned by Mark Serwotka and Janice Godrich is due on that soon.
The PCS and CPSA before it has been described as the 'Beirut' of the trade union movement because of the right wing's 'rule or ruin' tactics, which has greatly benefited the employers. This ruling should signal the beginning of the end of such internal strife.
There will be an interview with Mark Serwotka in a future issue of The Socialist.
In The Socialist 9 August 2002: