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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 May 2010

PCS conference: Preparing for action

National Gallery workers, members of the PCS, walk out against low pay, photo Paul Mattsson

National Gallery workers, members of the PCS, walk out against low pay, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Meeting barely a week after the horsetrading between the establishment parliamentary parties had finished, the 2010 conference of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) was an important event. It was clear to all delegates that the new Con-Dem government was determined to make working people pay for a crisis of the capitalist system and civil servants would be on the front line facing many of these attacks.

Greg Maughan

But, just days before the conference began, a high court appeal ruled that changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme were unlawful. It makes a change for a judge to rule on the side of workers but, as delegates explained, it was not the legal challenge on its own that won but the three days of solid strike action and other campaigning that backed it.

Initiated by Brown's Labour government, huge cuts to the compensation scheme were made in preparation for whole swathes of job cuts on the cheap. The defeat of those changes was a boost of confidence for the conference delegates. But delegates realised that attacks from the employer and the government are only just beginning.

National Gallery workers, members of the PCS, walk out against low pay, photo Paul Mattsson

National Gallery workers, members of the PCS, walk out against low pay, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Discussion took place around the need for industrial action to defend jobs and services. In particular the question of coordinated action across the public sector came up.

PCS is pledged to call on the TUC to organise a national demonstration against public sector cuts as a step towards such coordinated action. If the TUC holds back from this, the PCS will have to take the lead in forming a coalition of the willing, drawing together the best militant trade unions to call such a demo in their name.

Chris Baugh, PCS assistant general secretary, addresses the National Gallery workers, who walked out against low pay, photo Paul Mattsson

Chris Baugh, PCS assistant general secretary, addresses the National Gallery workers, who walked out against low pay, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The conference was unified on the need to organise the 'fight of our lives' against Con-Dem cuts and on the tactics to take things forward, with full democratic debate hammering out and developing these tactics.

This is a testament to activists in the PCS, with the Socialist Party playing a leading role in transforming the union over the last few years.

The very successful Socialist Party conference meeting was attended by about 80 delegates and nearly 1,300 was collected for the Socialist Party's Fighting Fund.

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In The Socialist 26 May 2010:

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Con-Dem cuts - 'only the beginning'


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