Amidst farcical discord in the dominant Left Unity faction of the civil service union PCS, nominations open on 17 January for the union’s Assistant General Secretary. Voting will run from 16 April to 9 May.
The AGS is the only full¬time officer other than the General Secretary elected by members. Months ago, the union’s president Janice Godrich (not a full¬time official as such, but someone seconded long¬term from her civil service job) announced that she would challenge Chris Baugh (the incumbent) for the Left Unity nomination. Both Godrich and Baugh were and remain members of the Socialist Party.
Following a nasty internal fight, it was announced shortly before Christmas that Godrich had just pipped Baugh to win the nomination. Then Godrich withdrew her name on grounds of ill health. The Baugh camp instantly claimed him the presumptive nominee, but the Godrich camp now controlled the Left Unity committee. They said that Baugh had been discredited during the campaign (largely by them) and that another option would be chosen.
Godrich was General Secretary Mark Serwotka’s candidate. Largely — it would appear — on the basis that Serwotka didn’t get on with Baugh. Cue the second plot twist.
A week before Christmas, Lynn Henderson, a senior fulltime employee of the union and a GMB member, launched her bid as the Serwotka candidate for Assistant General Secretary of... PCS. The leadership of PCS, not least Serwotka, has always claimed that unlike other unions in the TUC, PCS is a “member¬led union”. Many of us have long found this claim a little far-fetched, yet it was still astonishing that Lynn Henderson — an incredibly well renumerated and unelected full¬timer of the union — had Serwotka’s endorsement.
The Godrich camp of Left Unity put out a non¬committal statement noting Henderson’s candidacy. Henderson is not a member of Left Unity. Then on 7 January we were informed that the Godrich camp has its own candidate for the Left Unity nomination, another senior union employee, Stella Dennis.
On union policy, the months of faction¬fighting have revealed only secondary tactical differences, demagogically exaggerated, between the rival FTO candidates. The average full-time salary of our membership is £22,500. The average full¬time salary of Full-Time Officers is £41,500. An 86% premium. FTOs receive over 25% more than lay members in civil service jobs with similar duties and responsibilities. Senior FTOs get the big¬bucks — £65k¬plus — comparable Senior Civil Service pay bands. On principle FTOs should be elected and on salaries far closer to those of our membership.
More important for the upcoming AGS election is that, not coming from the shop-floor, long¬time unelected FTOs don’t carry the same experience and understanding as lay members and reps. This election has now become a battle between three candidates of the union bureaucracy, and John Moloney, an activist with the left opposition group Independent Left, who is the only rank¬and¬file union member currently standing in this election. He is standing on a clear left platform, and should be supported.