Right Wing Booed Out Of PCS Leadership

THE VICTORY of the left and the demise of the right wing in the PCS civil service union has to be one of the most significant developments in the trade union movement in recent years.

Bill Mullins, Socialist Party industrial organiser

This is in a period where the left are making major advances after years of decline and retreat.

The election of new left leaders (some more left than others) has raised the confidence and combative mood of tens of thousands of trade union activists across the whole trade union movement.

It has been accompanied by a rise in the number of days lost in strikes to 1.4 million last year.

This mood was reflected in the PCS conference, when delegates related how their members were ready to fight back against low pay and privatisation, the twin evils of the civil service and the public sector as a whole.

The background to the conference was the stunning victory of the left over “the forces of reaction”, as they were dubbed by general secretary Mark Serwotka in his keynote speech.

The resolution condemning the right’s attempted coup, which of course the outgoing national executive (NEC) opposed in its dying breath, was only opposed by four delegates (with six abstaining) out of the 1,200 delegates.

Not one delegate spoke in favour of the old NEC. The right’s spokesperson, Stuart Currie, (who had lost his seat in the elections) arrogantly told conference, to a chorus of booing, that he: “Had better things to do than stay on the NEC anyway”.

The conference only lasted one and half days and got through an enormous amount of business as the delegates recognised the urgency of implementing the policies they were voting on.

These include:

  • A major campaign to end differential pay levels in the civil service, as a result of the break-up of national pay bargaining.
  • The stepping up of the programme to fight privatisation and a campaign to end the crisis in public sector pensions, which have been increasingly whittled away.

Addressing the special crisis for low-paid members in the London area. Socialist Party member Lindsey Baker from Sheffield related how she had been forced to move out of London once she lost her house:

“The council just laughed at me when I asked for accommodation and instead offered me and my child a hostel.

“The mortgage companies said I had no chance on such low wages and I was forced to come to Sheffield instead.”

The next period for the new left NEC will be the most important in the history of the union.

Defending the members’ interests

THE NEW PCS NEC met shortly after the conference. Unlike the first “meeting” of the NEC last year, the meeting was businesslike and dealt with issues facing the membership. A motion dealing with the delay of pay rounds was carried.

Mark Baker, PCS NEC, personal capacity

The Treasury are insisting that no civil service bargaining unit can offer more than 2.5%-3.7%, part-funded through non-consolidated “performance bonuses” and efficiency savings. An action plan to deal with the first stage of our campaign was agreed.

We also agreed two motions to be tabled by PCS to the TUC conference in September, on public sector pay and one on working hours and work/life balance.

It was also agreed to link up with other public sector unions to fight the proposed increase of the pension age to 65.

The NEC elected the union’s president, CWI and Scottish Socialist Party member, Janice Godrich to join general secretary Mark Serwotka on the TUC General Council. This was opposed by the right-wing but carried with a big majority.

We now plan to use that majority to carry out policies for members and to rehabilitate the union’s reputation after the events of last year when the right-wing majority tried to sack Mark Serwotka and strip the President of her powers.

We intend to concentrate on delivering fair pay for members wherever they work, protecting public services from privatisation and opposing the two-tier workforce.

We will tackle bullying and harassment and campaign for equality in the workplace, protecting the pension rights members have paid for and dealing with stress and the problems that cause it.

We only have a period of eight months in office, so prioritising these issues is important after sixteen years of neglect by the right-wing in PCS and its predecessor unions.