A serious leadership when it is proposing a turn should explain and justify that turn. Yet PCS’s leaderships have made two sharp turns without proper explanation; first saying that we will fight the government on our own if necessary and secondly highly emphasising the use of selective action in any dispute.
Up until very recently senior members were clear that no one union could take on the government over pay or indeed any major issue on their own, citing the National Union of Miners as a cautionary tale of what happens if you ‘go it alone’.
At conference the General Secretary did explain that we couldn’t trust the other unions to fight, so we have to ballot on our own – but that has been obvious for over 10 years; why has Mark Serwotka only discovered it now? The fact that the Tories are a minority government might be a factor as well but that was not mentioned.
We have argued for over 10 years that whilst wanting an alliance with other unions we should fight on our own if need be. That argument was consistently dismissed until now.
We have also argued for over 10 years for targeted action alongside mass action; hitting those parts of departments that are vital for their smooth running. In our conception we would pay members in those areas to come out, putting them back when their action become ineffective. Of course all this would be with the agreement of the members in the affected areas.
Now it could be when the PCS leadership talks of selective action they mean taking out members on no pay in those vital areas. Of course that would make the action short lived and therefore of not much use. Besides why are we trying to build up a strike fund if it is not for targeted action?
Again until recently we were criticised for arguing for selective action, it being said that we wanted selective action instead of mass action. That has never the case. We have always seen selective action as an addition, an adjunct, to as much mass action as we can win. Instead of the usual leadership tactic of a one day strike followed by months of inaction, we saw selection action as filling in the gaps, continually hurting the employer. After all strike action must be to win; it is not a protest.
Whilst we have always said mass action PLUS selective action, the mood music from the leadership now seems to be targeted action plus (some) mass action.
Again this shift of position has not been explained, let alone democratically argued for amongst the membership. Indeed we think the over emphasis on targeted action is wrong. The emphasis must always be on getting as much mass action as possible. So YES for strike action – Yes to mass strikes.