Delegates are meeting this week for the PCS annual conference, against a backdrop of attacks on jobs and pay for civil servants. Union activists must mobilise to win a national strike ballot, and lead the fightback against the Tories.

Delegates are meeting this week for the PCS annual conference, against a backdrop of attacks on jobs and pay for civil servants. Union activists must mobilise to win a national strike ballot, and lead the fightback against the Tories.

Workers throughout the civil service have worked tirelessly to keep important public services running throughout the pandemic. Every single one of us can think of situations where we have gone above and beyond.

And what do we get in thanks from this Tory government? Yet more attacks, with new headlines every day denouncing us and the work we do.

But if the Tories think we are an easy target, they have another thing coming.

These articles are part of the latest bulletin from PCS Marxists – supporters of Socialist Appeal inside the union. Download and view the bulletin here, and contact us to get involved today! 

Pressure

DVLA strike round three

Through the media, we have found out about the government’s plans to cut 91,000 jobs over the next three years. This will lead to brutal pressure on all fronts. 

Most of these cuts will be made through not renewing fixed-term contracts, and not refilling vacancies from natural turnover. But redundancies are also inevitable. Otherwise, why are the Tories now trying to cut redundancy pay?

We all know how much pressure our departments are under, and what this means. One-in-five jobs are under threat. This means that, on average, a team of eight will have to do the same work as a team of 10 – with no extra pay. 

In fact, the 2-3% pay award the government has offered will mean a pay cut in real terms, with inflation already reaching 9%, and as fuel and energy bills skyrocket to eye-watering levels.

Workers in the Passport Office, DVLA, or DWP are already struggling with workloads and backlogs. The DWP, instead of expanding its workforce, is closing down offices, forcing some workers to commute unreasonable distances just to get to work.

It is one thing after another. The employers demand ‘savings’ and ‘efficiency’. And it is frontline workers who are made to pick up the cost. This will only lead to more experienced staff deciding to pack their bags.

Contempt

Rees Mogg Civil Servant note

19th-century relic Jacob Rees-Mogg has reportedly been going around Whitehall offices leaving condescending notes to staff. This ‘minister for government efficiency’ has no idea about how things are in the real world.

But he is not alone in this attitude. The Tories hold nothing but contempt for civil servants – and the entire working class in general.

As isolated individuals, we can do very little to resist these attacks. But this is what our union, the PCS, is for. It is our organisation, which we must use as a weapon to fight back collectively in the class war that the Tories and their capitalist chums are waging against us.

Action

It is evident from history that the only way for the working class to win any real gains is through organisation and struggle.

In this spirit, we support any emergency motion to conference that counters these Tory attacks.

More than this, though, we call for unified action. On its own, PCS can put up one hell of a fight. But if industrial action was coordinated with the other public sector unions, our movement would be unstoppable.

Once the organised working class points the way forward, those who are currently not in unions will soon follow. Faced with such a force, the government would soon find out who really makes things run in society.

PCS Socialist Appeal supporters therefore say:

  • Support the 10% pay rise and pension overpayment campaign! Once we win, the confidence of our members will grow. This will lay the foundation to fight for a 15% increase next year!
  • Save jobs and services! Every single fixed-term contract worker must be made permanent! Workers in temporary COVID and Brexit roles must be relocated to departments where their transferable skills are needed. This must be coordinated with the full oversight of PCS members.
  • Engage reps, activists, and members at branch level to organise and campaign! Open meetings must be held in offices and online, through all means necessary, to reach the widest layers of the civil service, who are currently looking to our union for leadership.
  • Strength in unity! For coordinated action with other unions! For a one-day public sector strike against this government’s attack on the working class!

PCS NEC elections and national ballots: The tasks ahead

The results of the elections for the PCS national executive committee (NEC) were released recently. The Democratic Alliance was successful in the lay officer elections, and won all but two of the NEC positions. 

Socialist Appeal supports and is part of Left Unity, the socialist rank-and-file broad left that is the largest part of the Democratic Alliance. As a result, we welcome these election results, and  congratulate all those elected.

This is a remarkable result. PCS has been led by committed socialists from Left Unity for over 20 years. This is testament to the fact that the union’s leadership fights hard to protect rank-and-file members’ interests. 

Tasks

We know there is a tough period ahead. Conference will discuss the way forward for our pay campaign, following the consultative ballot.

Now is the time for the union to give a bold lead and call a legal ballot, with the aim of holding a serious campaign of industrial action – not just a series of one-day so-called ‘protest’ strikes.

As such, PCS conference needs to endorse motions that move the campaign forward: to plan, organise, and hold a ballot to win a mandate for real strike action.

In particular, we need united, co-ordinated industrial action – not just in PCS, but across the public sector.

Other unions face the same problems as us, with cuts to jobs and to real wages. The leadership of PCS – newly elected by our members – has a proud record of working with other unions. This is what will be needed in the struggles to come.

Turnout  

We know there was a poor turnout in the elections. And the leadership needs to look at measures that will increase members’ participation in the democratic processes of our union.

It is true that the level of turnout is similar to that seen in other unions, so it is not a problem particular to PCS. But we should not be complacent.

Demonstrating that PCS is a fighting union will increase the involvement of members. And an enthusiastic campaign around a legal ballot will help to do this.

The opposition to the Democratic Alliance in the elections came from two left organisations: the Independent Left and the Broad Left Network/Socialist Party. Both of these were heavily defeated.

The political differences between Left Unity and the Independent Left are minimal, and appear to have emerged purely around personalities. The Independent Left need to work with the leadership of the union on a principled basis in order to meet the challenges ahead.  

Prestige

The Broad Left Network, on the other hand, is another split away from Left Unity by the Socialist Party and their fellow-travellers, following a disagreement over the candidate for the assistant general secretary election a few years ago. 

The Socialist Party is set on a path of prestige politics, seeking to gain positions in our union (and others) at all costs. In Unison, for example, they stood a candidate against the rest of the left, helping to split the vote and hand the general secretary position to the right-wing candidate. 

We would question the seriousness of the Socialist Party’s commitment to a good result in the recent consultative ballot. Once again, it appears that they have been pursuing narrow sectarian interests, preferring this ballot to be a failure, in order to have a stick with which to beat the leadership of PCS.

Leadership

Such behaviour must stop, especially at a time when our members are facing the prospect of tens of thousands of job cuts at the hands of this rotten Tory government. Ultimately, antics like these only help the employers.

Going forward, our aim must be to hold a successful legal ballot – uniting members around a campaign of sustained, serious industrial action, in coordination with other unions in the public sector.

This will only be successful with a fighting socialist leadership at the head of our union, giving a solid lead to such action.

We know the scale of the challenge ahead of us. It is now time to rise to the occasion.

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