PCS’ website states:
The union’s national executive has agreed plans for a determined campaign for fair pay and working conditions, including a ballot for industrial action by more than a quarter of a million civil and public servants.
The web statement goes on to say:
The NEC agreed that if employers do not respond satisfactorily to our demands, we will move to a national ballot in the new year for a programme of industrial action.
Now one of the demands is on pay yet we are still in a pay dispute from 2011! In the ballot that started in May 2011 the NEC said that vote was for ‘an end to the pay freeze and a fair pay rise for all’. The new ballot in 2013 will also cover ‘ cuts to pensions and jobs’. Our ballot in 2011 was for those issues as well (remember the pension dispute!!).
Now either the NEC has forgotten this or doesn’t think it important but one of our critiques of the current union leaderships is that it starts disputes but then never concludes them; they just fade away with seemingly the IL, the only people who remember what had happened.
In George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ the record of the past is continually being changed. In PCS we don’t do that (the past can be found on the union’s website); the leadership just ignores it, presumably on the grounds that if PCS did an honest accounting of what happened, set against what it said it wanted to do, then the leadership would be found greatly wanting.
Now we have headed this posting as ‘Union announces possible national fight’ as strictly speaking the NEC has not said it will ballot, just that it will put a shopping list of demands to the government and if (surely when) the Tories refuse to meet those demands then the NEC will decide whether to ballot. All the signs are that the union will then ballot in late January or early February. Conveniently (again we see shades of previous national votes) such a ballot will coincide with the NEC election elections.
For those, who have any recall of the past, will know that although the union places a shopping list of demands before the government, in reality they are only interested in pursuing one or two of the demands on the list. So in 2011 we presented demands on jobs, pay and pensions but in reality the union only concentrated on pensions with no substantive campaigning on jobs or pay. Similarly this time, a Kremlinologist will divine that defending terms and conditions and (possibly) opposing increases in pension contributions will be the focus of the campaign; there will be no real fight on pay or jobs.
Now we are not opposed to a fight over these two issues; we just want the union to be honest in its dealings with members. And that honesty extends to strike tactics. No doubt we will have our stage army one day national strike – possibly in co-ordination with other unions – but what next? PCS knows that such limited action will not win anything for the members but it will still will persist with that tactic.
The IL in contrast wants as much national, all members action as can be had, coupled with selective, targeted and other actions; we want a levy so that we can sustain a dispute and we want to really get members involved in the running of the campaign; in our conception of the union they are not just passive recipients of occasional circulars, who can be called to strike when the union deems it necessary.
So we will fight for a YES vote in any ballot but we will argue that the union has to change the way it fights, campaigns and works with members if it is to win.