Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1044/29166

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 May 2019

PCS conference: defeats for union officialdom and steps taken to rebuild a fighting left opposition

Chris Baugh addresses PCS conference 2019, photo Tessa Warrington

Chris Baugh addresses PCS conference 2019, photo Tessa Warrington   (Click to enlarge)

Marion Lloyd, PCS national executive committee (personal capacity)

For nearly 20 years PCS Left Unity has been the dominant political force in the civil servants' union and Socialist Party members have played a major role.

More recently, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has increasingly concentrated power in his hands with support in the union's full-time officialdom and from elements within Left Unity.

The tensions this process has created within Left Unity became apparent in the lead up to the PCS national conference which took place in Brighton 19-23 May.

Immediately preceding the conference, despite a huge effort, PCS unfortunately failed to achieve the 50% threshold for the second year running to win a statutory ballot for strike action on pay, with a 47.7% turnout. This followed sharp differences within Left Unity over the tactics that were required to win the ballot.

Again taking place just before the conference was the election for assistant general secretary. Socialist Party member Chris Baugh, the incumbent and official Left Unity candidate, was narrowly defeated by Independent Left candidate John Moloney. A situation brought about by Mark Serwotka and his supporters splitting the Left Unity vote by backing a non-Left Unity full-time national officer.

This election brought to the surface differences in Left Unity: over the top-down control exercised by the union officialdom against the assertion of control by the lay structures.

Immediately before the conference, Serwotka told departmental groups the new assistant general secretary should speak at their conferences. The groups refused to replace Chris Baugh as their speaker. This show of defiance led to a climb down by Serwotka, claiming his instructions had been misinterpreted. When asked to publish all relevant correspondence to the national executive committee Serwotka refused to do so.

Pay debate

Conference opened with a pay debate which noted the failure to secure the statutory threshold. The executive committee's motion endorsed the approach and tactics pursued in 2019 and committed to a further ballot on the same basis at an appropriate time later in the year. Opposing this was a motion by Chris4AGS supporters.

This argued for a comprehensive, open-ended analysis of the 2019 ballot and for wide consultation on the tactics for 2020.

Although the motion was carried on a card vote (For 62,676, Against 60,991 and 5,686 abstentions) the closeness of the vote reflected the divisions in the left - the leadership struggled to find supporters to speak from the floor.

In a further debate, conference overturned the leadership in carrying a censure motion. This was over the executive committee's handling of Mark Serwotka's signature to a letter in the Morning Star about the Gender Recognition Act. The letter was described by the Guardian as an attack on transgender activists and felt by many to be contrary to union policy.

A well-attended Socialist Party meeting heard from Chris Baugh and Socialist Party deputy general secretary Hannah Sell on: 'Where now for PCS as a fighting union?' The financial appeal raised 700. There was agreement around steps to be taken to reclaim Left Unity as a fighting, democratic, inclusive rank-and-file organisation.

Left Unity retreat

How far the Left Unity retreat from its founding principles has gone was brought home when delegates, on their way to the Left Unity rally, were handed leaflets by prominent Left Unity national committee members announcing Mark Serwotka's re-election campaign.

The Socialist Workers Party, who were first in the line of those handing out leaflets, had no answer to the question: "What democratic process did this go through?"

Serwotka, astonishingly given his backing for a non-Left Unity candidate in the assistant general secretary campaign, spoke at the rally and made clear that the pre-emptive announcement of his candidature was exactly that.

The Left Unity national committee members handing out the Serwotka leaflet are obviously expecting some sort of coronation but this will not be acceptable to most activists who will demand a democratic election process to determine who will be the Left Unity candidate.

The 2019 PCS conference will be seen as a defining conference where activists sought to challenge the control exercised by the union officialdom and its echoes in the lay structures.

The push back against these developments was evidenced in the standing ovations given to Chris Baugh at the conference, the near defeat of the platform on pay, the censure on the Gender Recognition Act and the angry reaction to Serwotka's contemptuous announcement of his candidature for re-election over the heads of the activists.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 29 May 2019:


EU elections

Tories smashed in Euros - Now get them out

Euro elections 2019 - Across Europe

Euro-elections in Scotland and Wales


International socialist news and analysis

India: Modi victory - Socialist fightback needed


Climate change

The Green New Deal we need is socialism

Climate change strikes continue to resonate


Socialist Party news and analysis

Blistering UN report condemns Tory austerity - workers' action can end it

Them & us


Workplace news and analysis

Save steel jobs: Demand socialist nationalisation

PCS conference: defeats for union officialdom and steps taken to rebuild a fighting left opposition

Determined Sellafield nuclear workers' industrial action continues

Kirkby factory workers walk out over unfair dismissal

Wales train fleet workers to strike against transfer to private company


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Trump out - Tories out!

Fight the far-right - fight for socialist policies

Teignmouth: hands off our community hospital!

Birmingham Pride - revitalising political struggle


Opinion

The unheard voices of Gosport

Obituary: Pauline Dunlop (1947-2019)

Obituary: John Boots (1942-2019)


 

Home   |   The Socialist 29 May 2019   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

PCS:

triangleTate strike suspended

trianglePCS: No to DWP management's plans - Yes to action

triangleTate workers on indefinite strike hold march and rally

trianglePCS members in DWP reject unsafe extension of hours

triangleTate strike: "Coronavirus - no reason to fire us!"

Election:

triangleUS presidential election

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: The US presidential election

triangleBristol North Socialist Party: US presidential election - What next?

triangleNon-fiction: This Land - the story of a movement

Mark Serwotka:

triangleAn exchange with Mark Serwotka about sales of the Socialist

triangleShould the Socialist still be produced during the Corona crisis? An exchange with Mark Serwotka about sales of the Socialist

triangleMore than ever, we need accountable union leaders

Chris Baugh:

triangleSocialism 2019 rally: "Socialist change needed to end climate change"

triangleBuilding a new left in PCS

Marion Lloyd:

triangleStrong support for PCS Broad Left Network

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

30/10/20

Council

Sheffield: Tree-cutting council must admit it was wrong

30/10/20

Labour

Starmer's 'Militant moment' - labour movement fightback needed

28/10/20

Socialist Students

We won't pay with our futures

28/10/20

CWU

Royal Mail: No more behind closed doors talks

28/10/20

Prison

One rule for them, and another for us

28/10/20

Students

Evicted students can fight back and win

28/10/20

Union

Workplace news in brief

28/10/20

Nigeria

Solidarity with the movement in Nigeria

28/10/20

Students

Birmingham: 'Refund our fees' protests

28/10/20

Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest Save Our Square:

28/10/20

Bristol

Bristol jobs protest: We want 100% pay

28/10/20

Unison

Why I am backing Hugo Pierre for Unison general secretary

27/10/20

Greater Manchester

Working-class based campaign needed

21/10/20

NHS

Teignmouth hospital closure threat ... again!

21/10/20

Spanish revolution

Books that inspired me: For Whom the Bell Tolls

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999