The Socialist 27 May 2009 |
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PCS conference: Preparing for future battles
In a really excellent conference, the civil service union PCS, under its socialist leadership which was re-elected for the seventh time in succession, mapped out its strategy for the next 12 months.
The PCS's 300,000 members face an unprecedented period of attacks from the New Labour government. These attacks were outlined by Janice Godrich in her presidential address: "With a public sector deficit of £175 billion, the government is preparing massive attacks on the public sector, with some £15 billion of planned cuts on top of the £15 billion already achieved under 'efficiency' savings".
She went on to point out that in the elections on 4 June the main parties will be sunk in the scandal of MPs' expenses. But workers will have an opportunity to vote for working class candidates such as Keith Gibson from the Lindsey oil refinery construction site and Frank Jepson of Visteon.
General secretary Mark Serwotka referred to the fact that despite losing over 60,000 workers through voluntary redundancy not one PCS member has been made compulsorily redundant.
He warned that part of the planned attacks will include the civil service compensation scheme (enhanced redundancy payments) and the public sector pension scheme, which protects over 3.5 million workers.
Like Janice, Mark referred to the forthcoming euro-elections when he said later that despite the PCS Make your Vote Count (MYVC) campaign being very good, it has its limitations and doesn't answer the question: "Who should I vote for?"
He said that the slogan: "British jobs for British workers" is xenophobic but had been cut across in the Lindsey oil refinery strike by the intervention of socialists. "And now we have chance to vote for candidates from Visteon and Lindsey in the elections", he said.
In the debate on political representation, Mark said that any decision to support pro-public service candidates in elections would be subject to 12 months of consultation and a members' ballot. He made it clear though he was completely in favour of the proposal.
"It will untie our hands", he said. The proposal was overwhelmingly agreed.
The conference also gave its overwhelming support in an emergency resolution to Rob Williams, the victimised Linamar Unite convenor. On the previous day, when Mark Serwotka came to the rostrum and said that Rob was in the gallery, the whole conference stood up and turned around to applaud Rob. The union's national executive had already agreed to give £1,000 to his campaign.
In an emergency motion on MPs' expenses, Socialist Party member Kevin Greenway spoke for the national executive. He said that if PCS-supported MPs were found to have claimed excessive expenses then the union would dissociate itself from them. "To do anything else would leave us adrift from public opinion," he said, in response to a delegate calling for the motion to be remitted "because it would affect the PCS group of MPs."
The motion was overwhelmingly carried, as was a motion that called for support and a financial donation to the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign.
The Socialist Party meeting attracted 75 people to hear Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe, Janice Godrich and young members' network chair Alan Warner. A magnificent £1,750 was collected for the party.
Over 250 copies of The Socialist were sold, over two issues, marking the support that the Socialist Party has in the union.