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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 June 2016

PCS conference takes serious approach to key political and industrial questions

Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd (center foreground) and other BIS workers on the picket line in Sheffield, 19.5.16, photo A Tice

Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd (center foreground) and other BIS workers on the picket line in Sheffield, 19.5.16, photo A Tice   (Click to enlarge)

Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser

Virtually one of the last motions to be moved at this year's conference of the PCS civil servants' union was to give full support to the BMA doctors' union. General Secretary Mark Serwotka called on the TUC to organise a national day of action in support of the junior doctors and the NHS.

PCS has been to the fore in resisting government cuts and attempting to bring together all public sector unions in coordinated action. For this it has been specially targeted by the Tories.

This was the first conference since the government had withdrawn 'check-off' (the collection of union subs through wages). A monumental campaign in getting members to transfer to direct debit has staved off financial ruin with up to 90% signing up in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the HMRC tax office and 96% in Land Registry.

This attack has been removed from the Trade Union Act for other public sector unions. PCS had won a legal victory in the courts on the eve of conference ruling the removal in DWP illegal. The union will now be looking for damages.

The left Democracy Alliance, which includes Left Unity, has confirmed its leadership of the National Executive Committee (NEC) in the annual union elections, with Socialist Party member Janice Godrich winning her 14th successive presidential vote.

In 2011 the public sector pensions dispute, including the 2 million-strong strike on 30 November, was ended by the TUC, Unison, GMB and right-wing union leaderships. Then in 2013 the pay strikes fell away. Since then PCS has been continuing to lead its members against the brutal cuts.

Conference celebrated successful disputes in the last year in the National Gallery and Scottish Museums while showing solidarity to current strikes in the National Museum Wales and in the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) against the closure of the Sheffield office, led by Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd.

PCS conference 2016, photo by D Lunn

PCS conference 2016, photo by D Lunn   (Click to enlarge)

On the final day of conference, members were giving in a 230,000-strong petition against yet another drive to privatise Land Registry after PCS had defeated an earlier attempt.

But the lack of coordinated action across the public sector, especially against the pay freeze, has meant that the union has had to negotiate hard to ensure members in the DWP have safeguards in the group pay offer.

This includes significant pay rises for lower paid members but does include extended opening hours on Saturdays and evenings. DWP conference saw a passionate debate but agreed to recommend the offer for a membership vote.


As well as the industrial debates, conference saw the union grapple with the monumental political developments of the last 12 months. Both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell spoke at conference. Their pledge to repeal the Trade Union Act and restore national pay bargaining was enthusiastically welcomed.

But in the debates on political strategy and affiliation to Corbyn-supporting group Momentum, delegates showed that at this stage, it is not automatic that support for Corbyn's anti-austerity message means support for the Labour Party as it is still constituted, politically and organisationally.

Members instead want to soberly weigh up options as the struggle within Labour develops. Delegates were not convinced that the Blarite right have been decisively defeated, nor that the official left, including Momentum, have the necessary policies and organisation to defeat them.

The NEC's motion for a review of the union's political strategy, keeping a variety of possibilities open, was agreed rather than one calling for an immediate ballot for Labour affiliation.

Similarly, the motion to affiliate to Momentum was decisively defeated by a margin of three to one. This was also a reflection of many delegates' doubts about it due to its retreats on issues such as re-selection, Labour councils cuts as well as reneging on its original plan to bring together anti-austerity forces both inside and outside Labour.

A Merseyside delegate explained that she and other PCS reps have been excluded from Momentum meetings for questioning the leadership's approach.

It is also clear that among Scottish members, despite warmth towards Corbyn's policies, there is still a legacy of mistrust towards Labour after decades of right-wing leadership which reached its nadir in the 'Better Together' alliance with the Tories in the 2014 independence referendum. This isn't helped by Corbyn's continued mistaken approach to Scottish independence.

Socialist Party members were prominent in the conference, both from the platform and the floor. Many delegates bought our paper, while 900 was raised in the collection at our fringe which was addressed by Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe, DWP president Fran Heathcote and Geraint Parfitt, National Museum Wales striker.

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In The Socialist 1 June 2016:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Shatter the Tories: vote out

Motion passed for no-cuts council budgets

Jobseekers told: take three-hour commute

Public asset sales will lose us money

Stop Ryedale fracking

Blairite baloney

Khan air

Library lie

Them & Us


Tories out to knife the BBC


France: struggle against government intensifies

France 1936: sit-in strikes

Fighting austerity: French strikes show the way

What we think

Tories tearing themselves apart over EU referendum: vote leave to get Cameron out

Socialist Party workplace news

PCS conference takes serious approach to key political and industrial questions

Could it be 3 strikes and you're out at 2 Sisters?

Welsh Government under attack at Wales TUC conference...and museum strikers close to victory

University lecturers strike for fair pay

Thomas Cook cabin crew to strike over breaks

BIS office closure: Anger and determination to fight on

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Property speculators target Butterfields tenants

Pent Valley campaigners take council to judicial review

George Tomlinson school: Academy fears

Birmingham Labour council takes credit for Tory privatisation

Peterborough PFI palaver

Get a copy of the Socialist from a workplace near you!

International socialist news and analysis

Solidarity with protesters in Kazakhstan

Portugal: Lisbon dockers' victory

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Film: Money Monster

Obituary: Simon Gomery 1968-2016

Letter: Parcel farce


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