By a civil servant
The largest civil service union, PCS, meeting in conference in Brighton on 8-10 June, voted to endorse the union Executive’s decision to call off its planned one day strike over jobs, pay and pensions on 23 March.
It must be the first time Marxists have ever submitted a motion effectively congratulating themselves for calling off a strike without a single material gain for members. (The majority of the PCS Exec are Socialist Party, Scottish Socialist Party, and SWP.)
Admitting that PCS’s 23 March strike call was about jobs and pay as well as pensions — despite what the PCS leadership claimed when calling it off — PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka claimed that the campaign leading to the strike was “themed” around pensions.
Yet neither the membership nor the Executive ever took a decision to “theme” the campaign, and the General Secretary’s March editorial in the union magazine stated: “As I write, our campaign to defend your pensions and jobs is building towards strike action on 23 March.”
Now it appears that defending “your jobs” was just not part of the “theme”. We rolled towards and past 23 March and to a conference that took no meaningful decision to defend jobs.
In part, the conference’s decision to endorse the Executive’s action reflected a common front of the Socialist Party, SWP, the Stalinist Unity Group, and the PCS Democrats on this issue. It also reflected activists’ reluctance to criticise the new left-wing Executive after their dreadful experiences with the extreme right-wing National Moderate group, which previously controlled the Executive. The core of the opposition, and the only grouping calling for any serious national action campaign over the issues, was the Socialist Caucus (which includes AWL members and Solidarity supporters).
But now PCS has no meaningful national campaign to stop, limit, or even slow down the Government’s intention to cut some 100,000 jobs, one in five of all civil service jobs. In the DWP alone something like 12,000 jobs have already been lost.
On pay, the lack of any serious campaign for national pay by the left-led Executive is once again leaving members carved up between some 200-odd delegated bargaining units and facing another round of atrocious pay deals, a situation which has seen the gender pay gap increase from 22% to 25% in the last year and the low pay situation actually worsen.
On 21 June over 300 PCS members (along with members of Prospect) in English Heritage walked out for two hours over an imposed pay award delivering an average increase of 1.5% and a measly 50p a day extra for some staff. They — and other PCS members — desperately need to be part of a national, integrated, jobs, pay, and pensions campaign.