PCS members in action, photo Paul Mattsson

PCS members in action, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

John McInally, PCS vice-president

What a difference a year makes! Last year’s PCS (civil servants’ union) conference took place in the immediate aftermath of the Tory election victory. All the pessimists in leading positions in the labour and trade union movement shied away from a fight against what they saw as an all-powerful government.

But the anger against the Tories found an outlet in the unexpected election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

All socialists welcome this but we recognise the need for the new Labour leadership to really transform Labour into an anti-austerity force with other lefts inside and outside the party. This requires a fight against the pro-austerity Blairites in parliament, the councillors and party machine who will never be reconciled to his leadership.

The events of the last 12 months have shown that far from dominant, Cameron’s government is in crisis. Divided over Europe and after a raft of u-turns, it’s dawning on the Tories, but more importantly on increasing numbers of workers, that they are in a much weaker position with a paper-thin majority.

Yet the majority of the trade union leaders have baulked at the fight – celebrating marginal concessions on the trade union bill and the TUC general council refusing to act on the call of PCS and Fire Brigades Union to organise a national day of action in support of the heroic junior doctors and in defence of the NHS.

Correctly, PCS has consistently called for sustained joint co-ordinated public sector campaigns and strikes. We believe that this action, particularly on the scale of a 24-hour general strike across the wider union movement, can defeat the Tory anti-union laws and their vicious cuts.

As with the pensions strike in November 2011, PCS will again take the lead in working with other fighting unions in these struggles. It is no accident that the BMA’s junior doctors’ conference on 14 May passed a motion calling for them to work closely with other unions.

PCS has been singled out by the Tories because of our militant record. The attack on check-off was taken out of the trade union bill a year after it was removed from us. An incredible campaign by our members and staff has gone a long way to shore up the membership and finances.

In the face of these attacks, PCS has fought and won major gains and concessions.

After the National Gallery and Scottish museums disputes, members are on all-out strike in the National Museum Wales, workers in BIS are striking over office closures and redundancies and members in land registry are again fighting the threat of privatisation after defeating the first attempt.

Cameron and co can be defeated and PCS conference can underline the leading role that PCS will continue to play in both defending our members and building mass defiance of the Tories.

Socialist Party fringe meeting: After the elections: how do we kick out the Tories?

  • Lunchtime, Wednesday 25 May in the Grand Hotel, Brighton
  • Speakers: Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, and Fran Heathcote, PCS DWP President/NEC
  • Chair: Marion Lloyd, PCS BIS President/NEC