In 2005 the PCS leadership said, “We have persuaded the Government to introduce a fairer, more coherent pay system…” It was typical of the spin that has come to characterise the PCS’s would-be Marxist leadership.
The real truth is the Government had no intention of introducing a “fairer, more coherent” pay system (hence the need for the strike planned for Monday 10th November 2008). Indeed the lack of detail at the time showed that the PCS leadership either knew the Government was not so persuaded or it genuinely believed its own hype but had no idea what it had persuaded the Government to do!
In May of this year, just five months ago, the NEC/Left Unity leadership claimed that the NEC had “Achieved the first national pay negotiations in 15 years to address massive inequalities in pay.” The statement was just plainly untrue; the NEC had conducted years of fruitless “national pay framework” and then “pay coherence” talks. Indeed it a mystery as to how the NEC managed, in 2005, to persuade the government to introduce a “fairer, more coherent pay system” if it was not in national pay talks with the Government until 2008 (unless the “fairer, more coherent pay system” was not intended to address the “massive pay inequalities.” Obviously the fact that the claim was made just before the NEC elections might indicate what was going on.
Much more importantly, the NEC/Left Unity leadership also claimed that these first time in 15 years talks “...are ongoing with progress being made that can result in real improvements for members.” The claim was, of course, complete nonsense. There was no way Gordon Brown was going to dump his 2% public sector pay policy and therefore there was no way that the talks could result in “real improvements for members” - unless the PCS NEC’s definition of “real improvements” did not include inflation proof pay increases. Members are entitled to wonder.
If the NEC seriously believed that the pay talks last May would deliver real improvements for members then members are entitled to doubt its judgement of the current talks. In any case, having been informed that progress was being made, members heard precious little more about those talks until we were told that they had delivered absolutely nothing.
On the 24th September, in a joint letter to all members, the General Secretary and President said, “...calling for industrial action is a last resort. We have been campaigning and lobbying for fair pay. But talks with Ministers have so far not produced a positive response.”
If, by positive response, members were meant to understand that the Government had not produced any proposals that met or partially met PCS’s fundamental pay concerns, then as of the strike being called off that remained the case. At best there will have been some suggestions by the Government's negotiators that, maybe, something might be offered.
But of course we have been there before. This is a useful approach for a Government which would prefer to avoid an industrial dispute and knows that disputes are generally harder to restart than to start in the first place.