They got it wrong

The PCS leadership should have gone for a strike on the 28 March. Instead PCS hopes to take action with the NUT, late in April.

Now in their explanation of that decision the union states:

The NEC’s decisions have been based on two key considerations. First, since the government’s policy has been applied across the whole public sector, national coordinated action by as many unions as possible has been necessary to win concessions.

Of course we are not let into the secret to as to how “many unions” are need to win concessions. Of the major unions only the NUT, the UCU and PCS, are (we hope) in the “market” at the moment for further action (our great friend and radical Len McCluskey is notable by his absence)- but is this enough to win concessions? On the 28 March we could have had UCU, the London region of NUT plus possibly the Northern Ireland public sector union, NIPSA, out alongside the PCS; the NEC deemed this was not enough so obviously the NUT must be the magic ingredient that changes things.

Now the PCS statement says of NUT:

The NUT’s annual conference runs from 6 to 10 April at which decisions are expected on further action.

This is coded language for NUT activists – please overturn your leadership.

Even if NUT join in with one day of strike action in late April will this be enough to win? No right thinking person can believe that this will be the case. The Government can ride out one day strikes with months in of inaction in between, very easily. So what do PCS have to say about a strategy to win? Well:

Secondly a strategy to win a fair settlement to the dispute must involve a programme of action involving joint national strike action with other unions; joint national, regional and local protests; lobbying of ministers, MPs and other politicians; and co-ordinated targeted industrial action in some sectors.

We are not told what “a programme of action involving joint national strike action with other unions” means; is it a strike once a month; once every four months – what? We agree that there should be “joint national, regional and local protests; lobbying of ministers, MPs and other politicians” – but that is not going to win either. Lastly we have “co-ordinated targeted industrial action in some sectors”; what does that mean? In PCS we have a number of departmental and local disputes ongoing: are they part of co-ordinated targeted industrial? Who knows; we don’t think the PCS leadership know either.

So what do we say in reply to this waffle? Our starting point is that part of the PCS statement which says:

PCS members voted by 90.5% to reject the government’s ‘final offer’ on pensions and by 72.1% to support a programme of further action with other unions – the highest vote for action we have ever had.

We think that the “highest vote for action we have ever had” means something and that if members have democratically voted to continue the fight then that fight must go on. Members voted in the knowledge that the 28 March was to be the next day (this was explicit in voting material) and we should honour member’s wishes.

To repeat what we said in a previous posting “To the objection that the NUT is not taking national action on the 28th we say now, what we said in the past, each union has to fight for its own members – even when other unions will not. Unity with other unions is very important but not if that means unity of indecision and capitulation”.

Member’s confidence and morale maybe undermined by waiting even longer after the 30 November to take action. By late April the increase in pension contributions will be in place and we fear members will think that the fight is over.

We are on our own in the fight against job cuts and pay – at least in terms of having won a strike ballot over those issues (though our leadership has hardly mentioned these aspects of the ballot since the voting was concluded). Therefore the leadership’s logic that “First, since the government’s policy has been applied across the whole public sector, national coordinated action by as many unions as possible has been necessary to win concessions” must mean that the jobs and pay fight is already over as no other major union has balloted, or seems likely to ballot its members over jobs and pay. So have we given up on the fight over job losses and pay; our leadership should come clean on this.

When members were balloted last year they were not told that if only the NUT or some other specified unions took action with us, could we fight. Members voted yes in that ballot in the expectation that we would fight.

In contrast we have argued from day one that jobs and pay must take equal billing with pensions. In stark contrast to our leaders’ one strike at a time tactic we have argued that along with as much national action as we think members can bear, we want selective action as well, coupled with political and other actions.

It is not too late to rescue matters. We do hope that NUT activists over turn their leadership and that we fight together in late April. In PCS, what is needed is that activists and members overturn our leadership in the upcoming NEC election. That is why we are standing. Our position is clear; the fight goes on; vote Independent Left.

One thought on “They got it wrong

  1. 72.1% of a 32.2% turn out is not a majority of PCS members calling for action. What about the 68% who did not vote?

    PCS never and now does not have a strategy to win. What would have been 3 days of action over 9 months is a dispute that is lost.

    A mass levy voluntarily and selective targeted action is a real option. However, PCS NEC not interested plus ca change.

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