Young Members should be able to debate strategy without being smeared or patronised

By supporters of PCS Independent Left on the National Young Members Committee

Supporters of Independent Left have been putting forward in our branches and other committees that the best way to support the planned campaign of targeted action is through a substantial programme of all-out action.

It is the targeted action that will win the pay rise we need, but placing our struggle into isolated pockets while the rest of the union is ordered by our leadership to simply watch on will not win our colleagues over to take part in the targeted action and throws away the momentum of the campaign that workplace activists have been building over the last year.

It is exactly this threat to our campaign that supporters of Independent Left wanted to discuss at the National Young Members Committee meeting on 29 November.

The original draft of the motion was ruled out of order on the ground that as an advisory committee, we could only “advise” and not “call on” the NEC to take any position. However, this quick rewording was evidently not enough – apparently advisory committees do not have the power to advise the NEC of our views despite the clear wording of our constitution.

After some further wrangling, It was finally agreed that we would hear the motion as a “discussion paper.”

Much to our surprise, however, Fran Heathcote, President of the union had somehow invited herself to the meeting of young members to shout us down.

Despite having a printed copy of the motion in her hand, Fran had evidently not taken the time to read it. Inserting herself into the young members debate, she accused Independent Left of not supporting the targeted action in favour of only “protest action.”

An indicative vote was held which unfortunately saw the IL position fall to 5 against, 2 for, 3 abstentions. Despite this, however, Fran was described even by supporters of her position as “rude” and “patronising,” forcing many away from her method of organising.

Fran launching herself into attack against young members discussing the leadership’s risky strategy mirrors efforts by the leadership faction to smash any effort to suggest alternatives and for a broader layer of Civil Servants to join the struggle for better pay.

While Independent Left are critical of the leadership’s strategy and are calling for it to be reversed, we will do everything we can to ensure the campaign strategy, whatever it is, will be a success. We note, however, that the leadership’s position of isolating sections of the union to go it alone is only serving to isolate the themselves from the growing call of members in every department to join the targeted action out on strike.

Motion below:

The National Young Members’ Committee notes that:

  1. The turnout in the PCS ballots for industrial action over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms was the largest since the formation of PCS.
  2. 126 delegated bargaining units crossed the 50% industrial threshold required by law for strike action and returned a majority Yes vote.
  3. The turnout and the membership vote reflected, in part, a huge amount of engagement driven by young activists, and young members’ outrage at the cost-of-living crisis.
  4. PCS membership grew during the strike ballots and, significantly, after the ballot results were announced. Many of these new joiners are young members joining a trade union for the first time.

The National Young Members’ Committee further notes that on 18 November:

  1. The PCS NEC:
    • agreed an initial programme of selective or “targeted” industrial action;
    • rejected motions calling for one and two days of all out strike action in December across the BU.
  2. The General Secretary advised members, “The NEC will meet again in mid-December to consider the next wave of strikes…This could include strike action by all members together in the areas that crossed the 50% turnout threshold, possibly coordinated with other unions.”

The National Young Members’ Committee agrees that:

  1. Selective/targeted action is vital and we salute the members who will take part in such action and we will coordinate support through Young Members Networks. However to be effective, it must be complemented by a substantial programme of national all-out action to maintain the momentum of the campaign.
  2. Building and taking part in this programme of national all-out action will be educative for young activists, most of whom have never been on strike nor on a picket line before. As the future of PCS, it is vital we do not risk having a whole layer of activists across the Civil Service who have never taken part in industrial action.
  3. The NEC missed an opportunity to link strike action in December with the strike action planned for the same month by CWU, RMT, RCN, UCU and others. This mistake means that activists will have to rebuild momentum if and when the NEC decides to call national strike action. We are concerned this may result in disengagement, demoralisation and demotivation in the many young members who joined to fight for higher pay.
  4. We therefore advise the NEC to reverse its decision and, in the absence of that reversal, to quickly announce a first day of national industrial action for no later than mid-January.

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