PCS conference has agreed that members will be balloted over jobs, pensions, redundancy payouts and pay. This ballot begins immediately, the union hoping that if members vote yes, then it will take joint strike action with the NUT on 30 June.
The bulk of delegates at conference agreed that the ballot should begin straightaway even though in many areas this will mean mobilising members from a standing start but the prospect of co-coordinating action with NUT is too important to miss.
After 30 June — already being dubbed the glorious 30th — we move from the realm of plans to hopes.
PCS are looking for joint action with other unions later in the year. Which unions we don’t know, because PCS does not know.
At the conference the union signed a concordat with Unite. The problem is that, apart from the MoD, the membership of the two unions don’t overlap much in the Civil Service or the wider public sector. Unite’s real strength lies in the private sector.
There is no sign of Unison coming on board so far, so it appears that PCS will be hoping that the education unions will return to the fray over pensions late in 2011.
To fill the gap between 30 June and more national action later in the year, PCS wants Groups (these organise members in each government department) to take action if they can over jobs or any other issue covered by the national ballot. PCS says that the national ballot will give legal coverage to the Groups.
Groups fighting over local issues will not win the national goals set for the ballot. A better plan would have been to combine paid, selective action with more national action. There are many vital parts of the Civil Service which, if taken out, disproportionately affect the service.
Unfortunately, although the use of selective action was agreed by conference, the Socialist Party leadership of the union opposes this type of action; hence the call for Group action.
There is an incipient cult of personality developing within the union coupled with a self-congratulatory tone. Delegates close to the leadership regaled conference with stories of how membership meetings unanimously endorse whatever “turn” the union has decreed.
Delegates are reminded that the President is the best and is our natural leader; the same goes for the senior officers, particularly Mark Serwotka. An ovation is guaranteed if delegates are reminded of his recent appearance on “Question Time”.
Such behaviour endangers critical examination of the leadership’s past record and future plans.
While we must win the ballot for the 30th — and win it big — we also need to develop, quickly, a real plan to win. Currently the union has no such plan.