To rebuild the campaign, elect a fighting general secretary!
Nominate Marion Lloyd for general secretary and John Moloney for AGS
On 6-7 September, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) voted to extend indefinitely the ‘pause’ of the union’s national campaign on pay, jobs, pensions, and redundancy rights.
Suspension of the campaign followed a membership ballot, which closed on 31 August. The ballot asked members to support the PCS “strategy to continue our campaign” and 90.3% of those voting, on a strong 47% turnout, voted for exactly that – to continue the campaign.
This has been dishonestly used by a majority of the NEC. The leading group on the NEC is made up of two political groupings within PCS, one called Left Unity, the other called the Democrats – together referred to as the Democracy Alliance.
Instead of continuing the union’s national campaign, the NEC has now added to its previous decrees, which cancelled strike action in June and cancelled reballots in major government departments, by cancelling the union’s strike levy, which members had been paying since February, and which had funded targeted strike action.
Two justifications have been put forward for the ‘pause’.
President Fran Heathcote and Deputy President Martin Cavanagh have argued that the NEC needs time to consider the pay situation in the aftermath of a round of pay negotiations. These negotiations began in mid-June, as government departments, one by one, agreed to pay a £1,500 one-time, non-consolidated lump sum that the Tories conceded on 2 June.
Despite the concession, the pay talks were still constrained by the Treasury pay remit established in March 2023; this capped average pay rises to 4.5-5%. The total pay package for the vast majority of UK civil servants, therefore, could not reach the level of inflation and represented a continuing pay cut.
On top of the insulting 2-3% average wage increases offered for 2022-23 (against price rises in excess of 10% for the year!), this further pay cut needs to be added to the deafening silence of the government on the rest of our demands – on job security, pensions and our redundancy rights, which are all still very much in the firing line.
Moreover, the concession of £1,500 was considerably watered down for the 11% of civil servants estimated to be in receipt of Universal Credit (UC), whose payment would sharply reduce their UC payments, and for part-time staff, whose payment would be pro-rated.
Calling for a pause, in these circumstances, is to disorient and demobilise members, and to squander the momentum built up in the campaign.
The second justification for a pause, again put forward by Heathcote and others, was that the NEC must “consider the national talks on pay with the Cabinet Office”.
These talks are not formal dispute resolution talks, aimed at bumping up the pay offer. Currently they are talks about holding a further round of talks. These talks will focus on how pay bargaining is conducted in the future.
Negotiators may hope that they’ll be able to squeeze something else out of the Cabinet Office, but they’ve given away their greatest source of leverage by demobilising tens of thousands of members who still have a live strike mandate till November.
To win a serious strategy requires a fighting leadership
Socialist Party members and members of the PCS Broad Left Network, in which the Socialist Party participates, have called at all levels of the union for the restoration of the union’s national campaign, for reballots to begin in major departments that just missed the Tory undemocratic threshold, for further strike action to be called where we have a mandate, and for a clear programme to “continue our campaign” to be put forward to members. BLN supporters argued for this at the NEC.
It is clear that only a fighting, democratic leadership will do that – and equally clear that the current NEC majority are not likely to develop a spine from thin air. For this reason, we call on all PCS members, reps and branches to nominate Marion Lloyd for general secretary and John Moloney for assistant general secretary; nominations are open until 16 October.