PCS members in DWP on strike as part of the national action in March 2023. Photo: Eleanor Donne
PCS members in DWP on strike as part of the national action in March 2023. Photo: Eleanor Donne

At the end of 2023, Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd came within 800 votes of winning the election for Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) general secretary, standing as a candidate for the PCS Broad Left Network (BLN). This clear desire for change in the union, for a more combative and democratic leadership, makes the elections this spring to the National Executive Committee (NEC) and Group Executive Committees (GECs) even more important. The BLN hopes to work with all others in the union who want a fighting leadership.

PCS member

On Saturday 13 January, socialists from the PCS union met together at a BLN conference for union reps based in the civil service’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The BLN brings together PCS reps and members who want a fighting, democratic trade union with socialist policies.

As the largest government department, DWP has borne the largest number of job cuts, with staffing falling by more than 4,000 from April 2022 until October 2023. This is despite regular recruitment attempts, bringing in thousands of new staff – in essence, the department is running to stand still.

Complicating the situation, the Tory government has announced 66,000 further job cuts across the civil service, with all government departments scheduled to submit plans later this year for how they intend to comply with the scheduled cuts.

In DWP, poor working conditions and poor pay (for a third year running, by 1 April wages will be below the national minimum wage) drive the high turnover of staff. This reduces the number of experienced staff and places pressure on all existing staff, including those responsible for training and mentoring. Members of PCS look to their union to do something.

Reps attending the conference reported that the union’s leadership in DWP seems unable or unwilling to do more than talk, condemning management’s attitude – which is resulting in crushing workloads in areas like the Universal Credit Service Centres – while doing nothing practical to force them to change their approach.

BLN activists, including Socialist Party members, are determined that this should change. A whole battery of motions to the union’s annual conference for members in DWP have been agreed, and those BLN supporters elected to the union’s GEC in DWP have tabled a motion laying out clearly what should happen next.

BLN activists have also agreed that they will stand in the forthcoming union elections, to demand a fighting leadership that does not leave members in the lurch. BLN intends to work with all left forces across the union to help construct this fighting leadership. We urge all socialists and union activists in PCS, in DWP and beyond, to join with us.

A national BLN conference will take place on Saturday 20 January.

PCS Broad Left Network 2024 conference

Join the discussion on building a strong left challenge in PCS

Saturday 20 January 12 noon

Meeting ID: 856 1128 4998