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Posted on 18 May 2011 at 15:44 GMT

PCS conference agrees ballot for action on pensions

Part of the PCS contingent on the massive 26 March TUC demonstration, photo Senan

Part of the PCS contingent on the massive 26 March TUC demonstration, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

The conference taking place this week of civil servants in the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has voted overwhelmingly to start a ballot for strike action against the Con-Dem attack on public sector pensions.

General secretary Mark Serwotka, in moving the motion for the ballot, made it clear how serious the union is on this issue by saying that the ballot is not a strategy to protest, but is a strategy to win.

He make it clear that with the PCS and other unions (NUT, ATL and UCU) balloting for strike action on pensions there could be three quarters of a million public sector workers on strike on Thursday 30th June.

Also, that by appealing to the large unions that are not yet balloting, four million workers could be on strike together in the autumn if the government doesn't back down.

Photo Paul Mattsson

Photo Paul Mattsson

Three Socialist Party members spoke in theconference debate. One of them, Robbie Faulds from Sheffield, said that he had missed Mark Serwotka's speech in Hyde Park during the 26th March TUC demonstration because with the march being so large he had still been at the Embankment where the march had assembled.

He went on to say that his PCS members had marched alongside NUT members on that day, and should strike with them on 30th June. In reply to a solitary speaker who advocated that the ballot should be delayed until the autumn, Mark Serwotka said that 'if we go at the speed of the slowest union to take action, thousands of workers will have lost their jobs and pensions will already have been cut.

This motion is designed for taking action before it is too late'. The Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network have been arguing that there should be solidarity demonstrations in every city on 30th June that can reach out to involve workers whose unions are not taking action yet and bring them on board for taking action in the autumn.

Rob Williams, NSSN anti-cuts convenor

PCS conference fringe meetings

As well as the important debates on the floor of the conference, a number of good debates took place in fringe meetings over the course of the week.

On Wednesday lunchtime 80 delegates attended a meeting hosted by the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) to hear PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh (in a personal capacity), NSSN anti-cuts convenor Rob Williams and TUC 'young activist of the year' Nick Parker speak.

The meeting gave an overview of the work of the NSSN in building workers' solidarity, promoting workers' disputes and sharing information between workplace representatives across the country.

It heard about the NSSN's role in putting pressure for action against cuts on the leadership of the trade union movement and discussed plans for the strike action due to take place on 30 June on the issue of pensions - including helping workers to show support for the action whose unions are not balloting for action.

Thursday saw 50 attend the PCS Young Members Network fringe meeting. Always enthusiastic and well attended, this meeting demonstrated the strength of the union's young activists.

The meeting heard about the Youth Fight for Jobs Jarrow march taking place later in the year. This initiative is supported by both the PCS Young Members Network and the PCS as a whole.

Many young members signed up to help build support and raise finance for the march in their own areas.

On Wednesday evening the Socialist Party fringe meeting attracted over 50 delegates.

Tribute was paid at the meeting to John Macreadie, former deputy general secretary of the CPSA - the forerunner of the PCS, who died last December. John was a lifelong activist in the PCS and its predecessor unions and a proud member of the Militant - later the Socialist Party.

The meeting was addressed by PCS president Janice Godrich (in a personal capacity), young PCS activist Lee Vernon and Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe.

The huge struggle against the Con-Dem vicious cuts was discussed as well as the significance of the PCS conference vote for a national ballot for industrial action - the latest step on the road to widespread coordinated action taking place on 30 June.

The role of the Socialist Party in the PCS and wider trade union movement was also discussed.

Janice Godrich emphasised the crucial role played by John Macreadie and the Socialist Party in the development of the left in the PCS that has led to the victory for fighting policies at this conference.

Also praising John Macreadie was former PCS national officer Terry Adams who explained the vital job that Militant and then the Socialist Party played in John's development as an inspiring workers' leader as well as his role in building a vibrant, democratic 'broad left' in the PCS, so vital in the union's emergence at the forefront of the fight against the cuts.

A financial appeal at the meeting raised nearly 2,000 for the Socialist Party's fighting fund and several PCS members joined the party as a result of the meeting.

Greg Maughan

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