It has been long standing PCS policy to campaign for an end to public sector pay restraint and address inequality of pay across the various departments and employer groups our members work in. Our union’s demand of a return to national pay bargaining across the Civil Service is crucial if we are to achieve cohesion on pay, and terms and conditions for our members.
It is for these reasons the NEC developed a set of core demands around pay at the heart of our national campaign last year, and pursued the unification of our members needs on pay in the statutory ballot. Our inability to meet the 50% threshold has not lessened the needs of our members in relation to pay. It is this need to win for our members that drives the union in carrying on our national pay campaign and provides us with the determination to build our capacity to deliver the necessary turnout in any future statutory ballot.
The political uncertainty surrounding Brexit has presented PCS with a rare opportunity to pursue these demands and create a climate in which we can maximise the pressure and build our leverage on an increasingly weak government to achieve our aims.
We are clear that the unifying approach of building our campaign around a set of core demands the same across all departments creates the best opportunity to achieve this pressure, and force the government and the Treasury to accede to our demands.
It is this unifying approach that built the momentum last summer which saw nearly 51,000 members vote for industrial action over pay.
The biggest ever turnout in a national statutory ballot on pay, may not have got past the 50% threshold imposed by this government’s anti-Trade Union laws, but it overwhelmingly showed the government and the respective government departments, that low pay is a huge issue for our members, and gave us a platform on which to build.
Build to win on pay
Lessons have been learned and feedback from branches and previous regional pay briefings have shown that building our organisational capacity is the key to delivering a successful ballot result.
The current consultation with branches and groups is based on the revised NEC strategy of running a ballot in March across the core Civil Service departments – rather than across the wider membership – and on revamping the pay claim upwards to 8-10%. This strategy is specifically aimed at focusing on our larger organised areas and reviewing demands that resonate with our members across all departments.
The focus on the major departments will allow us to build our capacity and target our resources on areas that most need our support, while helping build the maximum pressure necessary to win on pay.
An end to the division that threatens our campaign
It is understandable in light of the previous ballot result, that some comrades are a little bruised after the massive effort they put in last time round. But it is clear that it was our organisational capacity in a number of areas which meant we didn’t hit the threshold, not the strategy we adopted as a union or the type of ballot we ran.
It is unfortunate that a number of comrades within Left Unity are still pushing the idea of a disaggregated ballot rather than unite behind the NEC’s agreed strategy. Their strategy of separate group ballots would mean the union needing to declare separate ballot results, effectively showing our strengths and weaknesses to the employer and isolating those who failed to meet the threshold.
This unnecessary distraction is in our view undermining our efforts to deliver on our national pay campaign, with time that should be spent on building our engagement with the wider membership and improving our organising capacity, being used to debate a failed strategy.
If we are to succeed in winning on pay for our members we need to be united now more than ever behind a single strategy with common aims. While it is perfectly acceptable to debate different strategies to achieve our goals, by calling for a disaggregated ballot we run the risks highlighted above and fly in the face of our key demand for a return to national pay bargaining.
Socialist View call on all members of Left Unity, and indeed Independent Left, to pull back from pursuing this strategy and unite to deliver a successful ballot result.
Re-election over members needs
Disgracefully, the proposal to add other group specific demands to the central pay demands has again been raised by AGS Baugh this week. Without support from any area of the country or group, and now without the backing of his own SP comrades on the NEC, this issue has already been debated by the PCS NEC and at Left Unity conference in December and was overwhelmingly rejected in both debates.
More than any other current issue, this conservative industrial strategy highlights the strategic approach championed by Chris Baugh for over 30 years, and which has defined much of his tenure as AGS.
His pursuit of Group ballots around a series of separate demands, even if they include a central element on pay, do not constitute a national pay dispute, instead you would have a series of group disputes with the national union relegated to the role of simply trying to co-ordinate action and again allowing employers to pick us off department by department.
Socialist View have held firm in our belief that Chris would continue to pursue his own agenda regardless of the impact his approach and strategy would have on our union, our national campaign and our members’ interests. We believe this proves us right and shows he has little to no faith in our members’ ability to win on pay and the other key issues they face. Chris is effectively calling for an end to the national pay campaign as he knows our demands cannot be achieved through this strategy.
We call on the Socialist Party to formally, and publicly, distance themselves from Chris’s latest attempt to ignore PCS and Left Unity policy and undermine the national pay campaign, and we urge all Left Unity members to reject these attempts to weaken us and support Stella Dennis in the AGS election.
The future of our pay campaign, PCS and LU democracy, and our members’ interests cannot be left in the hands of a man who has such scant regard for their importance, and who places his own interests ahead of those of our union and our members.
VOTE STELLA DENNIS FOR AGS – DEFEND THE NATIONAL PAY CAMPAIGN