Meetings of Left Unity – the left of PCS, the civil servants’ union – are taking place this week all around the country. The purpose of these meetings is to put forward nominations for different positions within the union, including for assistant general secretary (AGS).
Janice Godrich, currently the president of PCS, is seeking nominations for the AGS position. So far, she has picked up support across the board.
“It’s been an excellent start, with my nomination being agreed by our Left Unity groups in Midlands, Merseyside, North East, West of Scotland, SE Wales and West Wales,” explains Janice.
“Other meetings are taking place this week. I’m really pleased about the reception that the policies I’m standing on are getting, including my commitment to take a workers’ wage.”
Fighting for members
Janice has worked her way up from the bottom to become PCS president after starting work in a Selly Oak job centre in 1981. She has held a number of trade union positions in PCS and CPSA (the predecessor to PCS). She is a committed socialist and has put all her energies into fighting for her members and the working class.
The union has suffered a temporary disappointment in the fight for better pay. Despite winning a big majority for strike action, the failure to reach the turnout threshold set by the Tory’s draconian anti-trade union laws blocked any potential action. The union is therefore conducting a widespread consultation with members about the issue.
“We needed to analyse the ballot result, and consult with our reps and activists on how things went and what could be improved upon,” explains Janice.
Janice believes that she is the best candidate in the election for AGS, given her experience, support and commitment. In this race, she is up against Chris Baugh, the incumbent, who is backed by the Socialist Party.
Just for seeking the nomination, Janice was accused by the Socialist Party of “dividing the left”. But she rightly dismisses this suggestion.
“I don’t think it’s divisive to seek a nomination. No socialist should have the right to remain in a post unchallenged, just as no MP has the right to be automatically reselected for their positions.”
Out of desperation, Janice was alleged by the Socialist Party to have presided over the “bureaucratisation” of the union. This laughable suggestion was simply an attempt to sling mud.
PCS is proud of its lay democracy, with annual conferences and elections, elected regional and national committees, and regular branch consultations. The union has established the trust of activists and members.
“In my former union, the CPSA,” states Janice, “the right-wing ‘Moderate’ leadership blocked debate, refused to carry out conference policy, shut down dissenting branches and victimised left activists. When I hear the Socialist Party make a comparison with that to today, it makes me angry.”
Seize the day
Janice believes members deserve a united leadership at the top of PCS, which she and Mark Serwotka can provide. She believes the leadership should be more reflective of the membership; one that understands what it is like to be a workplace rep under attack.
Janice is keen to strengthen workplace organisation, improve union density, and increase membership democracy wherever possible.
“We need to play the fullest role in the fight against austerity and improving the lives of working people and communities and for strong independent trade unions,” she explains.
Above all, she believes in seizing the new opportunities offered by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell as leaders of the Labour Party to advance members interests.
This includes the fight to restore national pay bargaining, ending the pay cap, ending privatisation in the public services, restoring trade union facility time and collective bargaining, and the repeal of the anti-union laws.
This, Janice explains, is why the PCS is campaigning for a Corbyn-led Labour government at the next general election.
For a fighting socialist union
In Janice’s first year as PCS president, in 2002, there was an unprecedented attempt by the right wing to stage a coup against Mark Serwotka’s election and her role as president. But this was defeated and the job of building the union really began.
“We will always have debates about tactics on the way forward. But I don’t think anyone can dispute that we have all built a fighting socialist union respected throughout the TUC and labour movement,” states Janice.
“Those sorts of experiences strengthen your political and socialist determination.”
We urge all Left Unity members to attend LU meetings this week and vote to nominate Janice for AGS.