Reclaim The Union
Fight for union democracy
THE RIGHT-WING of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), the biggest civil service union, are attempting to overturn the result of the general secretary election of 18 months ago and the decisions of the union’s recent national conference.
The national executive of the union is dominated by the ‘Moderate’ faction.
This faction voted to reinstate Barry Reamsbottom as general secretary, in spite of the democratic election of Mark Serwotka in December 2000 and a conference decision that Reamsbottom should abide by an agreement he made with the union to go at the end of May.
All PCS members must protest against the ‘Moderates’ action. This attempted right-wing coup will end up in the courts. The Left should have no hesitation in vigorously defending the union’s democracy.
Already a broad-based campaign is developing, spearheaded by the newly elected president, Janice Godrich.
It aims to gather together reps prepared to fight the outrageous actions of the right-wing and calls on members to:
- Demand the recall of the national conference
- Sign the protest petition
- Attend rallies in their area.
- Give financial support to the campaign.
Janice Godrich has issued an official circular to branches, outlining the situation, which is also available on the Left Unity website.
PCS branch executives should meet to discuss the events and send protests to Barry Reamsbottom, with copies to Janice Godrich.
Branches should ensure that all members know what is happening in the union, with branch meetings convened as soon as possible.
Branches, workplaces and individual members should contact ‘Moderate’ and ‘Membership First’ NEC members in their department, agency or constituency.
Ask them what they have done so far and whether they will support the fight for democracy in the PCS.
For more information, see Right-Wing Coup In Civil Service Union and the PCS Left Unity website: www.pcsleftunity.uk7.net.
PCS headquarters: 160 Falcon Road, London SW11 2LN. Fax: 020 7924 1847.
Right-Wing Coup In Civil Service Union
ON THURSDAY 23 May, the newly elected National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) gathered for a hastily arranged meeting convened by Barry Reamsbottom, the outgoing general secretary.
Debbie Darracott, PCS member
PCS president, Janice Godrich, told the assembled gathering that the meeting was unconstitutional and could not proceed.
The ‘Moderates’ faction, right-wing supporters of Barry Reamsbottom and forming the majority of the NEC, illegally voted to continue the meeting. They then pushed through a motion declaring the election in December 2000 of general secretary elect, Mark Serwotka, null and void.
The decision to hold the general secretary election was taken at PCS conference in May 2000. PCS members were balloted in a referendum on the decision and 96.6% of the vote was in support of the election.
The incumbent general secretary, Barry Reamsbottom, having failed to stop the conference decision with threats of legal action, then failed to get sufficient nominations to allow him to stand as a candidate. He negotiated a contract that would allow him to continue as general secretary until 31 May 2002, with a payment of salary up to May 2004.
Reamsbottom’s legal agreement with the union clearly stated that his period of employment with PCS would end on 31 May 2002.
PCS Conference in 2002, again faced with Reamsbottom’s threat of legal action and a High Court injunction, debated a motion endorsing the legal agreement with Reamsbottom and confirming that he would leave the union on 31 May 2002.
The Standing Orders committee had been threatened with financial penalties against its members, but stood up to this intimidation to allow conference to debate the motion.
The motion was overwhelmingly carried, with only a handful of Reamsbottom’s supporters voting against.
Reamsbottom and his ‘Moderates’ supporters say they have taken legal advice which declares the ballot and election of a new general secretary to have been illegal.
This challenge was not made when the ballot was run in December 2000. It only took place when the ‘Moderates’ faction took the majority on the NEC in May 2002, eight days before Reamsbottom was due to leave the union. Reamsbottom, never having stood in an election since the formation of PCS, is determined to stay in office until at least 2004.
Many PCS members will be aware that Mark Serwotka was voted into office with over 41,000 votes. None of the ‘Moderates’ on the NEC gained even 10,000 votes, yet these people are diverting the resources of our union to undermine the election of Mark Serwotka.
PCS members, whether supporters of Mark Serwotka or not, see this attack on Mark’s position as an attack on the democracy of the union. The ‘Moderates’ have ambushed the union for their own personal and political gain.
This is not unusual for this faction and former CPSA (one of the unions from which PCS was formed) members will be disheartened to see a return to the bad old days of legal action and injunctions against elected officials and representatives.
Instead of campaigning against privatisation, for a return to national pay bargaining and protecting members from attacks from the employer, the ‘Moderates’ dominated NEC will wrap itself up in threats of court cases, abuse of the union’s publications and systematic alienation and intimidation of the union’s reps and activists.
We cannot allow the self-interest of the ‘Moderates’ and their leader, Barry Reamsbottom, to undermine all the decent, hardworking reps and activists who have supported members year after year.
It’s our union so let’s fight to defend it, its democracy and the election of Mark Serwotka as general secretary.
A Warning To The Trade Union Movement
THE MOVE by the supporters of Barry Reamsbottom in the PCS has astonished many on the Left of the trade unions.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party industrial organiser
The declaration that the election of Mark Serwotka as general secretary is invalid is not only an insult to the whole of the union’s membership, including the near 42,000 who voted for him, but a real warning to the rest of the trade union movement that democracy for this extreme right group inside PCS is only something to be accepted when it suits them.
What The Socialist and its forerunner Militant have said about the character of Reamsbottom’s group has never been truer.
Our supporters in the CPSA and now the PCS have explained that most of the rest of the right-wing across the unions have the interests of their respective union at heart, even though their policies are not in the interests of the members. But Reamsbottom’s small group are out to rule PCS or wreck it.
A few years ago, the links CPSA leader Marion Chambers and Barry Reamsbottom had with the “Committee for Transatlantic Understanding” were inadvertently revealed in a document circulated to the NEC by union treasurer Keith Mills. This “Committee” is known to have close links to the CIA.
Reamsbottom and his ‘Moderate’ predecessors have, like the infamous Robert Maxwell, used the threat of court action, including against the Militant (forerunner of The Socialist Party), to attempt to silence his critics.
When the PTC merged with the CPSA in 1998, the right-wing in PTC were so astonished with the nature of the “Moderates” in the CPSA that they jokingly referred to the union headquarters as being in “Clapham (In)Junction”.
The PCS, after going through a major dispute, has won many thousands of new members. Yet some of the ‘Moderates’ spent all their time seeking to undermine the dispute, including being in direct contact with the enemy, the chief civil servants and their political masters, the New Labour government.
The conclusion will also be drawn that Reamsbottom would not have done what he has without the OK of the government and Tony Blair. New Labour has had a shock as they watched new Left leaders, including Mark Serwotka, elected in the trade unions.
In the rail union RMT, right-wingers in the TUC were caught openly interfering to try to stop Bob Crow’s election as general secretary.
In the AEEU (now part of AMICUS) election skulduggery has been exposed in the nomination process. Many other unions have had similar experiences with their right wing but the PCS has outdone them all.
All those interested in the unions being under the democratic control of their own members must make their voices heard and act now.