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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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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 26 May 2010:

Millionaire ministers butcher public services

Con-Dem cuts - 'only the beginning'


National Shop Stewards Network

National Shop Stewards Network conference: Time to organise against con/dem attacks

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Socialist Party news and analysis

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International socialist news and analysis

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Puerto Rico: Students and workers fight austerity cuts


Education

Education under attack: Con-Dem government prepares for battle

Unions must defend public services

Tory government says rich must pay less


Comment

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