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PCS members vote for battle against cuts
Public and Commercial Services (PCS) members have given a resounding 90% 'yes' in an indicative ballot to reject the government's proposals to rip up their contracts and steal accrued rights on redundancy payments under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS).
John McInally, PCS national vice president (personal capacity)
The government's aim is to drive through job cuts and privatisation as cheaply as possible. Members also voted 'yes' by 96% to support the national executive committee's (NEC) There is an Alternative campaign to oppose the cuts and privatisation agenda, including attacks on pay, pensions, jobs and services.
The scale of the 'yes' vote in both cases is staggeringly high - 90% rejected the CSCS proposals and 96% supported the NEC's campaign on a 32% turnout.
It is a tremendous endorsement of the NEC's strategy.
The right wing on the NEC opposed the cuts campaign, arguing that cuts are inevitable. It is a vindication of the campaigning lead given by a leadership that has demonstrated it will not roll over in the face of attacks but will organise to oppose them, involving members and activists at all stages.
The coalition decided to push legislation through parliament rather than obey the High Court rulings that said they must seek a settlement with the union if they wanted to make changes to the CSCS.
PCS tried hard to reach a settlement including proposing that redundancy payments under any new scheme be more fairly distributed in favour of the low-paid, the overwhelming majority of civil servants.
This was rejected by cabinet office multi-millionaire minister Francis Maude.
The government now faces a potentially damaging and costly legal battle under European legislation and possible further industrial action. PCS is calling on the government to reach a fair and reasonable settlement, and there will be no peace on this issue without one.
From the start PCS clearly stated there was no need for any cuts whatsoever. We argue that there is an alternative to workers paying for the crisis created by the banks and the unregulated free market through tax justice, investment and job creation.
Any socialist knows the limitations of such a Keynesian solution but PCS conference policy, as developed by the union's Democracy Alliance NEC, not only exposes the lie "there is no alternative" and "we are all in it together" but importantly, demonstrates that a real alternative exists to cuts and privatisation.
General secretary Mark Serwotka was described as a "fundamentalist" at a TUC executive meeting for espousing this principled position but the real problem for the "there must be cuts" brigade within our movement is, which cuts then? Who deserves to lose their job and which services can people do without?
Unsurprisingly there is never a straight answer to these simple questions.
If this ballot has demonstrated anything it is that when workers are given a lead by a committed, campaigning union leadership then their confidence and determination is galvanised.
PCS will build the campaign through workplace meetings and build for the industrial action that is absolutely inevitable if the government does not back off.
In The Socialist 19 January 2011:
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news