Three candidates, one rank and file

Submitted by Zac Muddle on 20 November, 2019 - 12:23 Author: A PCS activist
Poster for Bev Laidlaw's General Secretary campaign

The election campaign for PCS general secretary has now started, and runs until 12 December.

Before it started, the union closed down the members’ Facebook page, leaving only the main union Facebook page, administered by head office staff. That page has churned out a weekly, sometimes daily, stream of videos of the current general secretary, Mark Serwotka, holding forth on various issues.

Closing down a potential forum for debate, and using the union’s official platforms for blatant electioneering, do not reflect well on Serwotka’s campaign for re-election.

Bev Laidlaw is standing as the candidate of the Independent Left. We’ve been leafleting outside civil service workplaces, and branches that nominated Bev are planning hustings and other meetings.

One of Bev’s key messages is that she is a rank-and-file candidate. Members want to vote for one of their own, someone who is connected to the shop floor. She has led disputes and stood up to the bosses. The other candidates represent two sides of the same coin.

Socialist View, the faction within PCS’s ruling Left Unity group formed by former members of the Socialist Party who have continued to back Mark Serwotka, has published a long article on the election. Its claims about Bev radically miss the point, accusing her of attempting to obscure or conceal her support for Labour Party affiliation and a Labour vote, something Bev has not done.

It does, however, score some points against Marion Lloyd, the Socialist Party candidate, who it rightly accuses of bending the truth about her circumstances to appear more proletarian.

Marion is a well-paid civil servant on 100% facility time. Bev is on 50% facility, spending the other 50% in a low-paid job on the front line of the industry, giving her a day-to-day experience much more in line with the vast majority of PCS members.

Bev has committed to taking no more than the average wage of a PCS member if elected; Marion, despite the Socialist Party’s policy that union officials should be on a “workers’ wage”, will continue to take her current salary. Although this is lower than the full amount Serwotka is currently paid, it is still a wage that gives her material conditions significantly removed from majority of the union’s rank-and-file. Socialist View apparently miss the irony in making these criticisms. Their own candidate – Mark Serwotka – is a 15-year union bureaucrat paid nearly £100,000 per year.

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