PCS Needs A United Left To Win For Members

Socialist View welcomes all delegates to PCS Annual Delegate Conference 2019. This week we will decide the policies and strategies for the coming year and beyond. There will also be debate on the left about how we continue to build a fighting democratic union capable of meeting the challenges of an on-going austerity programme of cuts and privatisation.

The recent pay ballot was both a major achievement and disappointment. While recording for the second time a tremendous vote for industrial action we failed to reach the undemocratically imposed 50% ballot threshold for action. We should be very positive that this threshold can be reached. The national pay campaign strategy is fundamentally correct. The only way we can end the cycle of falling living standards and low pay for our members is by winning back national pay bargaining, and the only way we can do that is through national action with a national aggregated ballot, and both national and targeted industrial action.

The real issue is organisation. The new technology like branch apps are invaluable aids but building strong workplace organisation is the key. Conditions vary from group to group and branch to branch. We must carefully assess which areas need help and assistance and even how we can further strengthen the best organised areas. PCS should ballot as soon as practicably possible to smash the threshold and win against a Tory government falling apart at the seams.

Elections – Unity Not Sectarian Division

Socialist View welcomes the re-election of a Left Unity national executive committee and in group elections, not least of all in HMRC and DWP. These election results are remarkable in that Left Unity (LU), the socialist rank and file organisation in PCS, has suffered the most serious internal divisions since its inception in the past year over the election for Assistant General Secretary.

While former incumbent Chris Baugh deserves great credit for the work he has done to build the left and PCS over many years it cannot be ignored or excused that he has for many years consistently undermined the general secretary, the NEC and the democratically decided policies of the union. The real issues behind this unfortunate division emerged into full view in the LU campaign for the AGS nomination and the PCS election itself. And rather than emerging from a “personality clash” they arose from Chris’ conservative, timid and conciliatory approach to industrial and political strategy. Obscuring the real issues were cynical and divisive dog-whistle claims that PCS, one of the most democratic, lay led unions in the UK was in the grip of a “bureaucracy”.

But the last straw was when Chris broke from NEC and conference policy to argue just prior to the most recent ballot it should be on the basis of a disaggregated ballot with a whole raft of terms and conditions added. This would not have constituted a legal national ballot. Such a “strategy” would have allowed the government to divide and rule by, at best, offering limited concessions to some groups on terms and conditions issues but holding firm in refusing to concede on national pay bargaining with the consequence of continuing low pay for our members. And this at a time when HMRC and other departments were trying to tie terms and conditions cuts to pay negotiations.

A Strategy To Take The Left And PCS Forward

SV congratulates John Moloney on his election as AGS and believes he can be a good, capable AGS. The Independent Left (IL) group of which John is a member has, in some respects, even bigger questions to face than Left Unity. Will it continue to act as an oppositional grouping or take this opportunity to build and extend the left beyond the current factions and work to deliver what is required to build our union to meet the challenges members face? We hope it does. And we hope they see the call from the Socialist Party to “build a left independent from the leadership” for the incoherent and empty nonsense it is.

LU has always been clear, none of the differences of view that do exist are of such importance that they justify separate organisations. But even a united left must reach out further to those many activists and even members who are in neither camp. The capacity for strengthening and extending socialist influence in PCS is enormous and that is what must be done.

We must move forward from here but not on the basis of the failed, sectarian strategy that caused the split in the first place. SV will fight to ensure LU gets back on track but will continue to expose and oppose sectarianism and conservatism. SV says to those genuinely interested in advancing the left – learn the lessons from this divisive period and join us in building the fighting democratic union we need to defend our members interests.

General Secretary Election

SV will support the re-election of Mark Serwotka as general secretary in the upcoming election. He is an outstanding leader committed to continue building a fighting democratic union and win for our members by implementing the democratically decided policies of PCS. The SP say Mark’s re-election shouldn’t just be a “coronation”.This comment is devoid of serious political content but does tell us that rather than learn from their errors they intend continuing with their “rule or ruin” line and have as their main priority bringing down Mark as general secretary. We urge the left to reject this embittered sectarianism, which is doomed to fail, and fight for a united left leadership capable of taking our union forward and winning for members.