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30 May 2012

PCS shows real unity for fighting the cuts

Rob Williams

This year's PCS conference showed that the civil service union will continue to play a leading role in resisting the government's attacks on working-class people by reaching out to all those prepared to fight alongside the trade union movement.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka spoke about the pension battle's highest moment so far on 30 November (N30) and the lowest, on 19 December at the TUC's public services liaison group (PSLG).

N30 saw the biggest single day of strike action for 85 years as two million public-sector workers opposed working longer, paying more and getting less for their pensions.

At the PSLG, unions like Unison broke up the strike coalition by signing the government's 'Heads of Agreement', little different to what was on 'offer' before N30.

At the PCS Left Unity fringe meeting, Mark thanked the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) for its part in organising the lobby of the PSLG meeting in opposition to the agreement.

In moving the emergency motion on the pensions dispute, Mark soberly weighed up the tactics needed. But as he reminded delegates: "We may debate the necessary tactics but at least today we're all agreed on the need to fight."

Conference overwhelmingly agreed with taking action alongside other unions and looking to broaden the strike alliance of 10 May (M10). This included backing the national executive's motion to continue working closely with the Unite union.

Mark especially praised the unofficial M10 action by prison officers in the POA union. He warned against PCS being isolated and believed that the wider action on M10 justified the decision to postpone the strike on 28 March. This allowed Unite health members to be involved along with the UCU, ISU, NIPSA and POA unions, and even coincided with the massive police march!

The mood at the conference was confident but sober, a reflection of being through the first stage of the Con-Dems' onslaught, although an estimated 85% of the cuts are yet to be implemented.

PCS's exposť of the £120 billion evasion and avoidance of tax was highlighted by official reports that 2,500 public sector executives have done deals with HMRC to avoid paying PAYE tax, saving £10,000s from their tax bill. It was also shown that sacking tax office workers had led to over £1 billion not being collected!

A Greek civil service union leader's call for a European general strike against austerity was met with rapturous applause.

The NSSN fringe meeting and stall generated a lot of interest in the 9 June NSSN conference. 70 delegates attended the Socialist Party meeting to hear SP general secretary Peter Taaffe and newly elected PCS DWP-group president Fran Heathcote. Three delegates joined the SP and over 120 copies of the Socialist were sold with over £1,200 raised in fighting fund.