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Public and Commercial Services union elections: Time For Change
JANICE GODRICH, Left Unity candidate for national president of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) spoke to The Socialist about the main issues in the election and why she is standing.
The Left Unity campaign theme is 'time for a change'. Our team of Left Unity candidates is committed to building the campaign for national pay bargaining, fighting privatisation and transforming PCS into a campaigning trade union.
We believe PCS members showed, when they elected Mark Serwotka as general secretary, that they want the union to mount effective campaigns to defend their interests. We want to build a fighting leadership up to this task.
The union represents people in the civil service and non-departmental public bodies. It also increasingly represents members in the private sector, as a result of privatisation.
The Tories broke the civil service into a myriad of different pay negotiating bodies, so a key campaign is to return to national pay bargaining. Using the full strength of the union we can fight against low pay.
The government claim departments have 'freedom' on pay but they're all bound by the same central government guidelines. So different groups of members end up competing for smaller or larger slices of the same cake. We want to be able to campaign on pay claims which unite all members.
We're also standing to end low pay. A lot of civil servants had their pay increased when the minimum wage was introduced, which is a real indictment of the government as an employer.
It can take 20 years to get from the minimum to the maximum of the pay scale. So we have to tackle low pay and campaign for people to be able to progress through the pay scales and transfer between departments.
The union has to say it's against privatisation in any form. Some people in the union think they can negate the worst excesses of privatisation without campaigning against it.
Obviously if the union has campaigned against privatisation and it still goes ahead, the union should work to fight for members' rights in the new set-up but we have to tell the employer we don't believe public services should be privatised.
The union has been too hesitant to unite members and service users with other public sector unions to fight privatisation. We have to widen the campaign to explain why the government is adopting these policies, how they affect members and users and how to organise against them.
The right-wing underestimate the ability of members to see issues beyond their own workplace. But the role of trade union leaders is to campaign on these issues.
In the safety dispute in the new jobcentres and benefit offices, I'm proud of the way the members have responded. Members have fought under difficult circumstances with high levels of management intimidation.
This election is about transforming the union. Members are facing a lot of attacks and we need to organise effectively to defend their interests.
I've negotiated a lot of agreements on pay and terms and conditions as well as leading campaigns on pay and against privatisation in the employment service. You have to be able to negotiate but not be afraid to use industrial action where necessary.
The membership have shown they will take action on important issues. Too often the right wing just concentrate on negotiation and back away from action, which weakens the union.
I'm not a career trade unionist. I've spent the vast majority of my working life combining trade union duties with work. My socialist beliefs have come from my experiences at work and in life generally. There is no middle road when fighting injustice and inequality.
For more information on the Left Unity candidates, see www.voteleftunity.org.uk
In The Socialist 29 March 2002: