Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 16 December 2020

PCS union conference stripped of powers by NEC

PCS members on strike, photo Paul Mattsson

PCS members on strike, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Dave Semple, PCS national executive committee member (personal capacity)

At a scheduled meeting on 10 December, the national executive committee (NEC) of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which covers civil servants and those on private sector government contracts, decided to remove key powers from the union's Annual Delegate Conference for 2021. Strenuous objections from Socialist Party and Broad Left Network (BLN) supporters on the NEC were ignored.

Where is member control?

General Secretary Mark Serwotka and the 'Left Unity' majority on the NEC proposed that branches lose the ability to decide the subjects and running order of the conference. This will pass control of the conference to the NEC and the National Standing Orders Committee (NSOC). Branches will also be restricted in terms of the motions they put forward. Each branch will be allowed four motions; three will have to be on subjects predetermined by the NEC and the fourth can be on anything - but making it on to the agenda will now be down to NSOC.

Previously, all decisions by the NSOC had to be ratified by conference itself, and branches had the right to dispute with the NSOC. This is now gone, opening the door for a stage-managed conference led by Left Unity majorities on the NEC and NSOC.

Key issues face the union, including on the unfolding Tory Brexit disaster and the union's attitude to the Labour Party. On both of these questions, the NEC flatly broke conference policy, backing a second European Union referendum at the TUC in 2019, and indiscriminately backing Labour MPs at the general election in 2019, including those leading the charge against policies we support.

The result has been the total wreckage of the union's political strategy. In ordinary times, conference might very well wish to correct and criticise the NEC for disregarding conference policy.

Mark Serwotka, who likes to pose as a champion of equality, was left scrabbling to reassure NEC members who asked why equality issues weren't listed as part of the three key issues he suggested for the NEC-determined sessions. Serwotka wanted these sessions to be on pay, Covid-19, and his strategy for the future of the union.

A recent finance paper to the NEC has shown that, with a modest increase in the recruitment of members - in a civil service that has grown by tens of thousands of new jobs, not an insurmountable task, if the union is doing the basics - the future of the union would be secured. This can only add to the feeling amongst reps that, at a time when PCS is trying to build a national campaign on pay and to defend members' health and safety at work, Serwotka's threat of voluntary redundancies for PCS staff, and huge structural changes for the union's branches and groups, is just bizarre.

Significant union resources have been dedicated to producing reams of documents 'proving' the need for changes in the union (they do no such thing) and addressing consultation meetings across the union about the two alternatives Serwotka is trying to foist on reps - merger or restructuring - at a time when Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a pay freeze for 2021.

Meanwhile, the union's national pay campaign for the last six months has been a petition on Parliament's website, to try and trigger a debate in the House of Commons. When confronted at the NEC with the reality that a petition on its own was going to do absolutely nothing, the Left Unity majority responded in outraged tones that building for the petition would help union organising.


The reality? Of 104,000 signatures at the time of writing, the union knows that 20% of these were union members and has no idea about the other 80%. This means there's little usable data to tell us where the union's organisation is weak, even from such a task as getting a petition signed.

Socialist Party members on the NEC have from the beginning pushed for a robust strategy on pay, for a serious response to Covid-19 that mobilised the weight of those members still stuck in offices, and have flatly opposed inroads into the democracy of the Annual Delegate Conference. Inside the PCS, we participate in the Broad Left Network with activists and reps who seek to build a fighting, democratic union, and we call on all those with similar aims to attend the BLN conference on 16 January, on Zoom.

Donate to the Socialist Party

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.
  • 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 Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 16 December 2020:


Unemployment and Covid rising - the crisis is not over - Fight for jobs and safety

Mass testing - we need trade union oversight and full pay for all

Fight for NHS pay and funding

Rich countries hoarding vaccine is danger to us all

No to Tories' new anti-protest law

Maternity unit deaths - democratic, public ownership needed

Met police investigate British mercenary war crimes against Tamils

No surprise, poverty is rising


Cancel exams for class of Covid

Welsh schools close for safety after union pressure

Effective testing and properly funded safety plan needed in schools

East London shows the way: strikes are how to fight for state education

Determined strikers at Leaways school

Workplace News

Openreach and EE: Massive vote for action

PCS union conference stripped of powers by NEC

Unite launch ballot over sacked London bus rep

Christmas redundancy shock at L&Q housing association

Stop 'fire and rehire' at British Gas

New Technology

Can green technology and AI save capitalism?


'Socialism - Utopian and Scientific' by Engels

Reports & campaigns

Protests in solidarity with Indian farmers

Book: The national question - a Marxist approach

School boy assaulted by police in Tottenham

TUSC relaunch in the north west

Protest against immigration enforcement centre in Newham

Tremendous fighting fund reflects confidence


Quiz 2020


Home   |   The Socialist 16 December 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleSupport the Broad Left Network for a democratic, fighting union leadership

trianglePCS elections: increased support for Broad Left Network

trianglePCS members at Swansea DVLA to strike for safety

trianglePCS leadership failures lead to concession bargaining on pay

triangleHMRC: Pay deal agreed but at what cost?


triangleThurrock Council workers strike against pay cuts

triangleSPS Technologies workers end strike after management backs down

triangleRally for sacked RMT rep Declan

triangleAmazon - union vote lost


triangleWorkers strike and protest

triangleBristol Water workers walk out

triangleNHS pay: reject Tories' miserly 1% 'offer' - Fight for full 15% rise


triangleSt Mungo's maintenance workers on indefinite strike

triangleTrade union fighters rally to support victimised workers


triangleFootball abuse scandal: Reclaim the game for justice and democracy

Civil Service:

trianglePCS pay claim: Vital work unrecognised

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Workers strike and protest


Socialist Students

Students in action: Protest on 21 April


Socialist Party

Why you should join the Socialist Party



Cardiff: Hundreds protest to free Siyanda



Worcester: Kill the Bill


Fighting Fund

Fighting fund target smashed. Can we do it again?



Youth under attack



St Mungo's maintenance workers on indefinite strike



Thousands of London bus workers strike across multiple companies



Rally for sacked RMT rep Declan


East London

East London cleaners fight outsourcing and redundancies



Bristol Water workers walk out



SPS Technologies workers end strike after management backs down



Thurrock Council workers strike against pay cuts



London: #BuhariMustGo protests are back

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



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

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: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021