PCS union pay strike ballot: huge result must launch fightback, despite Tory legal barrier
Marion Lloyd, PCS national executive committee (personal capacity)
Members of civil service union PCS have achieved a historic high in our 2019 pay strike ballot – falling just short of the anti-democratic threshold for lawful national action.
Now it is urgent that the union leadership launch pay claims in every group which has a basis for industrial action.
The ballot closed on 29 April. The result announced on 30 April showed a six-point increase on last year’s turnout – an unprecedented 47.7%, the union’s highest ever. This is testament to the tremendous efforts by reps and activists throughout the PCS.
The Tories’ arbitrary 50% turnout threshold is not applied to any other voting arrangements in business or politics.
Were it not for that, the 59,452 members who voted by a massive 78.9% for strikes, and 91.3% for action short of strikes, would have won a resounding legal mandate.
We are ruled by a Tory government without a majority in the Commons, and which has suffered the biggest defeats in parliamentary history to its Brexit deal. But still it clings to the reins of power!
How does this square up to that same Tory party illegalising strike action supported by a stonking majority of voting union members? The hypocrisy is incredible. Their ‘democracy’ declares a pro-austerity minority legitimate, and a pro-strike majority illegitimate!
Falling just short of the anti-union laws’ anti-strike rules doesn’t lessen the achievement of such a huge vote for action.
Nor does it mean the union’s campaign against the eleventh year of pay restraint is over.
Many departments and groups will have exceeded the threshold for legal strikes. The leadership must urgently release this information, and launch coordinated pay claims among those groups of members.
A good start would be calling Friday lunchtime meetings outside every PCS-organised workplace. These meetings should receive reports from the national executive committee; protest against pay restraint, office closures and job cuts as well as the anti-union laws – and start planning group strike campaigns where possible.
To carry on the fight, the PCS needs a combative, socialist leadership. The ballots for the union’s assistant general secretary and national executive committee close on Thursday 9 May. Voting is by post, giving activists just a few days more to get out the vote.
Socialist Party member Chris Baugh is the official candidate of Left Unity, the union’s broad left group, for assistant general secretary.
Socialist Party members Marion Lloyd and Dave Semple are also seeking re-election to the national executive committee.
While building for the next steps in the pay campaign, in the time that remains we are also calling on all fighting members to go round the offices, ensuring members vote for Chris and the Left Unity-backed ‘Democracy Alliance’ slate.
Threshold or no threshold – the fight goes on!
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 April 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.