Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/412/4690
SOCIALIST PARTY members and other Left Unity supporters in civil service union PCS at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea, have laid down a marker for the future by challenging the current right-wing leadership of the branch in this year's branch elections. With a vote of around 40%, there are some real positive aspects to the campaign and the results.
Dave Warren, PCS - DVLA Swansea branch, personal capacity
In common with the rest of the civil service, union members at DVLA are threatened with attacks on their pensions, job cuts through the Gershon review and more intensive exploitation through new working practices and individual monitoring. In addition, DVLA is at the bottom end of the pay league in the Department for Transport.
The branch officers who are associated with the remnants of the misnamed national 'moderate' group in PCS have abandoned any semblance of an independent trade union response. They prefer to "work closely with management", as they describe it. The partnership agreement is used as an excuse for the union to become advocates for the official DVLA line.
Left Unity stood a slate of seven candidates for officer and branch executive committee positions in September. The elections had been delayed from March due to the left candidate for branch secretary, Dave Warren, being unconstitutionally prevented from standing.
The union's national executive had to step in and organise the elections on behalf of the branch, to ensure that they were conducted fairly. The vote for Left Unity ranged from 351 to 290 for the committee, compared to the right wing's vote of 525 to 431.
The campaign began in earnest in November 2004. Over the ten months leading up to the elections, Left Unity distributed ten separate leaflets totalling 24,000 to the membership of around 3,200. As well as general leaflets on the major issues facing civil servants, there were also leaflets targeted at particular sections of the workforce.
The campaign raised the profile, not just of the Left Unity candidates but of the union as a whole. A dozen people took part in giving out leaflets and donating money to the campaign, and many more approached us to express support.
The right wing responded by attacking us in very aggressive terms, accusing us of being "misfits, extremists and malicious liars". By using official union circulars, they gave the impression that this was a battle between the union and outsiders bent on destroying it.
This was despite the fact that some of our candidates have been loyal union members for 20 or 30 years.
The votes for the Left candidates show significant support, and we are determined to build on this over the coming months.
In The Socialist 20 October 2005: