A famous politician once said of struggle, “You must be able at each particular moment to find the particular link in the chain which you must grasp with all your might in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next link.”
Our task this week is to determine the next link in the chain of the national dispute and to pull as hard as we can to move to the next link. That means abandoning the present tactic and approach of the Left Unity leadership of the union; the tactic of the isolated one day strike. This method of fighting is not new to the PCS and has been used, and found severely wanting, in previous disputes as it has in this one. That is why, in an emergency motion, the Independent left (IL) suggests a new way forward.
Firstly, we must remember that members voted to take industrial action on pay and jobs as well as pensions. The pay and jobs part of the dispute has been ignored to date by the NEC, though no doubt for the purpose of this conference, there will be mention of them. In reality though the union has concentrated wholly on the pension’s front; believing that this is the glue to hold a coalition of unions together. Of course this particular glue has not managed to bind Unison, the NUT and other unions to us.
Therefore the IL wants to give the defence of jobs and pay as much prominence as pensions; we believe that this maximises the prospect of mobilising members and allows the union to actually fight on these three vitally important issues. Whilst we do want to build the widest possible alliance with other unions we must be prepared to fight on PCS issues and on our own if necessary – the alternative is to let the fake left leadership of the likes of the NUT and plain in your face right wingers like Dave Prentis determine the pace and tactics of the dispute. The more we fight, the more pressure we will place on the likes of the Unison and NUT leadership.
The stale one-day-strike-at a five month time tactic has to be abandoned. In its place we want as much all-members’ action as members will support, coupled with paid selective action in the key parts of the union. We want to look at alternative methods of taking action; for example the DWP contact centres could be taken out for one day, followed by jobcentres for one day and then the benefit centres for a day; taking out each in succession would increase the chaos caused. This attack on the “production line” was used with success by CWU in a Royal Mail strike a few years ago. It could, and should, be replicated in many parts of PCS.
Lastly we need clarity from the leadership as to what they want from any talks from the government. The IL does not want to preserve schemes where those recruited after 2007 have a pension age of 65 (this age agreed by the current leadership), top civil servants having payouts of a 100K plus whilst paying the same contributions as an AA. We want a pension age of 60 for all; regardless of when they were recruited.
To win we have to move the dispute on and move away from the current tactic of a strike every five months. Members facing job loss, members facing pay cuts, and all of us facing pension loss – we are all in one battle: to stop the government making us pay the price of the financial crisis. Let us together grasp the chain and move to the next link.