PCS members striking in Watford. Photo: Mark O'Connor
PCS members striking in Watford. Photo: Mark O'Connor

A fighting, democratic, socialist union leadership is needed now more than ever!

Nominate Marion Lloyd for PCS president, and a fighting NEC

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) met in February to consider the next steps in the union’s national campaign on pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy rights.

Broad Left Network (BLN) supporters elected to the union’s NEC continued to put forward the need for a serious national campaign, not the half-measures put forward by new general secretary Fran Heathcote and acting national president Martin Cavanagh.

Heathcote and Cavanagh and their Left Unity grouping, which currently holds a majority on the NEC, spent June to September 2023 demobilising and dismantling the national campaign. They cancelled strikes, reballots, and the union’s strike levy, which had built up a fund to support targeted strike action.

They hid behind the ballot organised last summer, arguing that “members had endorsed the NEC strategy”. But in order to get this endorsement, the NEC majority had told members that a ‘yes’ vote continued the campaign.

But February’s NEC proves that there has been no campaign for the last nine months, and that a new campaign must be built.


New research shows that the position on civil service pay is truly terrible. Prices have risen by around 20% in the last two years. On top of that, since 2010 we have faced pay freezes and 1% caps to rises. To undo pay austerity since 2010, the average pay rise we actually need is 32.9%, which will vary slightly depending on grade and department.

This throws into sharp relief just how weak the NEC was, cancelling last year’s campaign on receipt of a £1,500 non-consolidated payment.

This is to say nothing of the other issues: on pensions, where we are over-paying contributions by 2% of salaries each year; and on jobs, where the Tory government has announced 66,000 job cuts.

When the action was ended in June, the BLN called for the national campaign to be reinstated immediately. But now, after a nine-month gap in activity, a serious approach would recognise that we must rebuild the campaign from the ground up.

We must reiterate the demand, agreed by the 2022 conference, of a 10% pay rise, and add to this a demand for a framework to progressively undo the erosion of our rates of pay since 2010. We must explain this to members and prepare them for a serious fight.

Job cuts

And pay cannot be the only issue on which we build a dispute. Cancellation of the 66,000 job cuts and a no-compulsory redundancy guarantee must feature, among other vital issues.

We support launching a consultative ballot, but we think the NEC’s decision is less to do with seriously building a campaign, than with the Left Unity NEC majority being able to pose, during branch AGM season, as having done something meaningful.

The NEC met on 14 February and launched the ballot on 20 February. No time was allowed for branches and groups to confer, or even for a senior lay rep forum to ask questions.

Instead, the NEC opted for a stage-managed Facebook live event on 19 February, featuring the acting, unelected, national president, which will boost his profile ahead of the April elections.

A serious campaign would hold meetings across the union to mobilise members, and raise pressure on the government as we head into negotiations on the civil service-wide pay remit. Emails, leaflets and noticeboard posters would help recruit people to the union and win new activists. A consultative or even statutory ballot could then be launched in March, coinciding with the decisive part of any talks, and with any announcement being used to fuel the vote in the ballot itself.

Actively going out to members in this way would also allow reps to field questions about a renewed strike levy.

What is also still missing is any serious analysis of the targeted strike wave that ran from December 2022 until June 2023.

No doubt selective action with strike pay has a role to play – but we are fighting a national dispute and that requires national strike action, as with all the other strikes in the strike wave, such as teachers and railworkers.

Vote ‘yes’ in the ballot

Notwithstanding our concerns about the unclear pay demands and lack of strategy for winning these demands, we must nevertheless campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in the ballot. The bigger the vote, the more the pressure on the NEC to do something concrete, and the more the pressure on the government.

The union should also demand that Keir Starmer commit an incoming Labour government to the union’s demands on pay.

The current leadership has proven that it is not up to the task. Nominations have opened for the president and NEC elections. We urge all reps to nominate and campaign for a change in the leadership of PCS. The Broad Left Network, in alliance with the Independent Left, is working with other independent candidates in the forthcoming NEC elections in April, ready to seriously lead our union.