AGS Re-Run – Support Stella Dennis
The news that Janice Godrich was unable to accept the Left Unity nomination for AGS following her defeat of Chris Baugh, was greeted by sadness and concern.
Her positive campaign; the platform on which she stood, together with the dignity she has shown throughout the election process, had resonated with Left Unity Members.
This was reflected not just in Janice’s own defeat of Chris Baugh, but in the overwhelming endorsement of all other SV candidates standing on the same platform.
Socialist View supporters have always been clear that the campaign for the PCS AGS Left Unity nomination was never about two individuals, rather, it was a debate about fundamental differences in policy and programme, and the future direction of our union.
That’s why Socialist View are urging members of Left Unity to nominate and support Stella Dennis in this election. Stella is standing on a platform of support for the national pay campaign, support for conference policy and lay democracy, and support for Left Unity policy. She is committed to working with Mark Serwotka, the NEC and lay representatives throughout the union.
Stella is a vastly experienced trade unionist with a proud record as both a senior lay official within PCS, its predecessor union CPSA, and as a Full Time Officer of the union since 2005.
She is standing on the basis of her experience and record of achievement within our union over three decades. Stella was the first Woman President of the DWP Group, the largest in the union, a post she was elected to for 12 years, and she was the driving force in setting up the Group Equality Committees, and writing them into the Group Constitution.
As a FTO Stella was the Senior National Officer responsible for the union’s finances throughout the period the government was trying to close down our union through the withdrawal of check off. In that role she drew up the plans to ensure that PCS achieved financial security despite the loss of income that threatened the very existence of PCS.
As a group secretary and as the lead FTO responsible for two regional offices she has been at the forefront of ensuring FTOs worked with reps and branches recruiting more reps and members in order to build a stronger union.
Defend the National Pay Campaign
The differences between Socialist View, Chris Baugh and the Socialist Party on policy, strategy and in the methods they use are increasingly evident. No more so than in the case of the national pay campaign.
The strategy agreed by the PCS conference is to strengthen the union in every workplace with a view to winning an aggregated national pay ballot for industrial action. With Brexit looming, the union has a unique opportunity to leverage the government using this strategy. This was endorsed by LU with Chris Baugh’s position for disaggregated ballots with groups adding their own shopping basket of demands overwhelmingly defeated
Despite this defeat, Chris and his supporters have continued to pursue their own agenda, opposing the agreed national pay strategy. His refusal to accept the agreed policy and strategy of the union and Left Unity goes beyond legitimate debate and discussion.
At a time when we need maximum unity around our agreed strategy on pay, to deliver a campaign that will defend the living standards of our members and pave the way for a return to national pay bargaining, we have the Socialist Party sabotaging the unions democratically agreed strategy. The continued call by Chris and the SP for a disaggregate ballot weakens the national pay campaign and undermines the best ever opportunity to secure a return to national pay bargaining by exerting maximum leverage on the crisis-torn Tory government.
If Groups added their own demands around cuts, closures and terms & conditions, the unifying theme of the national ballot would be broken, leaving the employer free to settle departmentally on those specific demands in departments. The argument for a disaggregated ballot with Group specific issues is therefore essentially an argument for separate Group disputes rather than a national campaign on pay. This strategy was proposed and debated at the NEC meeting; and it was emphatically rejected. Stella also rejects this strategy and urges Left Unity members to as well.
Chris and his supporters claim that they are merely exercising their “right of tendency” but Socialist View rejects this. While debate and disagreement is healthy in any democracy and a bedrock of any socialist organisation, we do not accept Chris has any right to claim this as the union’s second most senior elected official.
Socialist View believe that Left Unity members have a right to expect that their candidate for AGS would abide by the democratic decision of our conference.
By contrast Stella is committed to continuing the pay campaign based on the policies debated and agreed by the NEC, PCS ADC and Left Unity conference. A strategy that involves uniting behind central demands on pay, opposing ongoing pay restraint and building our organisational capability, while consulting widely for a further national statutory ballot in the spring.
Support for a Corbyn-led Government.
But this is not the only example of the Socialist Party and Chris putting their own narrow interests ahead of the interests of the union. Their claim that Chris must be elected as AGS or the union risks bending its knee to a Labour Government is completely divorced from realty as is the suggestion that Mark Serwotka would “sell out” to a Corbyn led Labour Government. Civil Servants along with millions of other workers are looking for a Corbyn led Labour Government to solve their problems. Of course it will be up to PCS to ensure Corbyn delivers on his promises, including the promise to reintroduce national pay bargaining, but painting Corbyn as somehow the enemy certainly does nothing to advance the interests of PCS members.
Left Unity democracy
Left Unity is an open democratic organisation that exists to provide fighting policies that defend and advance our members interests.
There have been numerous examples of attempts to undermine the democratic decisions and process of Left Unity. These include publically challenging the results of the LU elections; criticising the elected LU scrutineers, demanding election regulations that they forced through the LUNC then be ignored just to increase their vote; making accusations against the LUNC of “direct interference” and damaging the reputation of LU, and organising nomination and voting meetings at times and places that the majority of members in the area have made clear they cannot attend and ignoring reasonable requests to consider alternatives dates and venues.
Supporters of Chris are now openly accusing Stella Dennis of standing simply as a stalking horse for Lynn Henderson. An outrageous slur on a woman with an outstanding record of battling against the old right wing in PCS and who has been at the forefront of leading disputes both in her branch and across her group.
Yet despite these tactics Chris and his supporters continue to claim they are the last bastions of lay democracy.
Left Unity and more importantly PCS members deserve better. We need a Left Unity AGS candidate who is experienced and committed to promoting PCS and Left Unity policy and not their own narrow political agenda.
Comrades, we call on all PCS Left Unity members to nominate and support Stella Dennis for AGS and defend the future of our union.