Members of the civil service union PCS will shortly receive ballot papers for the union’s national executive (NEC) and “group” (sector) executive elections. For the first time, members will have the chance to vote for a clear, class-struggle alternative to the Left Unity leadership in the form of PCS Independent Left.
Since the election of Mark Serwotka as General Secretary in 2000 and the subsequent establishment of a Left Unity majority on the NEC, LU and its strongest component, the Socialist Party, have presented PCS as having a fighting, socialist leadership. In fact, the union’s record has been wretched.
On pensions, it demobilised action in order to accept the Government’s demand that new entrants would have to work five years longer, to 65, in order to receive their full pension.
On jobs, while protesting against Gordon Brown’s 100,000-plus cull, the union let half of them disappear before calling two token strike actions this year (31 January and another strike due on 1 May). It has no industrial or political strategy for fighting job cuts.
On pay and conditions, no progress has been made on the now long-standing demand for civil service-wide terms and conditions and for national pay bargaining. Pay has nominally been folded into the demands of the 1 May strike, but so quietly that few have paid any attention.
Independent Left, which involves members of PCS Socialist Caucus as well as a number of previously LU-supporting and independent activists, is standing a slate of candidates for the NEC, as well as for the group executive committee of the Department of Work and Pensions, where the left is strongest and members have been most combative in recent years.
Candidates include AWL members John Moloney (already on the NEC), Chris Hickey, Charlie McDonald and Karen Johnson.
As DWP activist Christine Hulme, who is Independent Left’s candidate for PCS President, told Solidarity: “PCS members, particularly in the DWP, have shown they are ready to fight by voting for left candidates and taking repeated industrial action. Unfortunately, the Left Unity leadership only wants protest strikes, not a serious campaign of action through which we can force the government to negotiate and back down. This has led to massive frustration among the membership.
“Independent Left is standing to generate enthusiasm for an alternative vision of how the union can mobilise its members for a real fight on pay, jobs and privatisation. Our campaign is gathering momentum, and we urge you to get involved.”