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.

Branch model motion for national action

We have produced the following model motion for branches to pass; if they feel that it was a mistake not to call national action this year alongside the targeted action called by the union last week.

In our response last week we made the point that this strategy has the danger of demobilising members engaged throughout the ballot period, and risks those being asked to take targeted action feeling they are acting alone. We need national days of action as a springboard for the selective action planned.

BECs can submit motions directly to the NEC and they will be tabled for visibility. If these motions come from a properly conducted members’ meeting then the NEC is obliged to discuss them too. Regardless which body passes them, it’s important that branches show the strength of feeling on the current strategy to the leadership.

Please let us know if you pass the motion in your branch or need any support in doing so:

Branch motion on national action for the PCS NEC

This Branch/Branch Executive 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 (BU) 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:
    • a huge amount of pre-ballot work;
    • a magnificent engagement with the ballot by a significant layer of activists and members who were determined to deliver a Yes vote to halt the years of pay retreat and other attacks and to resist the unprecedented slashing of the real value of our pay;
    • members’ outrage at the cost-of-living crisis gripping them;
    • the confidence and inspiration members have taken from other workers and unions who had voted for and taken strike action or who had made the decision to ballot for action.
  4. PCS membership grew during the strike ballots and, significantly, after the ballot results were announced.
  5. Vitally, for the future of our Union, new, young, activists played an important role in delivering the Yes votes in many of the BU.
  6. After years of resisting selective or targeted action the leadership of PCS rightly made such action central to the national argument for a Yes vote but also unequivocally stated in the explanation accompanying the ballot papers, “We will call action involving all members…”

This Branch/Branch Executive 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.”

This Branch/Branch Executive Committee agrees that:

  1. Selective/targeted action is vital and we salute the members who will take part in such action.
  2. Selective/targeted action must be complemented by national cross-BU all-out action to maintain the momentum of the campaign amongst members across all BU; to build the active involvement of representatives, advocates and other activists who have a vital role to play, across the BU, in delivering a successful outcome to our dispute; to bolster selective action and the morale and confidence of members taking selective action; and to send an unequivocal message to the Government that we are all extremely serious about winning this dispute.
  3. The NEC missed an opportunity to link strike action in December with the strike action planned for the same month by the CWU.
  4. It was a mistake for the NEC majority to vote against national cross-BU all-out strike action in December and that mistake means that activists will have to rebuild momentum if and when the NEC decides to call national strike action.
  5. We therefore call on the NEC to reverse its decision and, in the absence of that reversal, to quickly announce a first day of national cross-BU industrial action for no later than mid-January.

Support Selective action – but not calling national action in support is a serious mistake

The PCS National Executive has rejected calls for national action alongside announced targeted action.

Just over a week ago the union saw the biggest participation and largest vote in favour of action in the union’s history.

This was the result of 6-weeks of huge member and activist engagement right across the union. During this period the union grew significantly, new, young activists were inspired to join-in fighting as part of the campaign. Members voting for action for the first time due to the severity of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and effective workplace agitation around the issues.

The strategy this time was different. The tactics long argued by Independent Left for targeted or selective action meant to cause as much disruption as possible is now universally agreed as the way the dispute will be won.

But targeted action must be complemented by national action.

National one day strikes on their own is rightfully seen as a weak strategy, little better than a protest action. In the past, members have seen the poverty of a strategy which sees them lose a day’s pay for minimal disruption.

But national action when used alongside targeted action is not protest action. Its purpose is to buoy those taking targeted action and to demonstrate in a real way that they are not acting alone, it’s to give all members a stake in the campaign. Most importantly it’s to retain the momentum among members in all workplaces and as a recruiting sergeant.

Equally, there are live disputes over office closures and redundancies in the DWP and Department for Education both now with mandates for action, but no action has yet been called.

The Independent Left argued at today’s NEC that members being asked to take sustained selective action should be supported by at least a day of national action by all members with mandates to strike as a springboard to the campaign.

IL argued that with the posties in the CWU calling 6 days of action in December, and lecturers in the UCU with 3 days starting at the end of this month, there could also be effective coordination with other unions.

The NEC majority opposed this and it was defeated with targeted action in a few areas being given the green-light this side of Christmas and no view of when – if at all – any national action will be called.

This represents a serious strategic mistake, risks widescale demobilisation and demoralisation of those being asked to take action as well as those who have effectively been stood-down from the campaign and many activists and members are rightfully disappointed.

Clearly, the action called today needs to be unconditionally supported with reps mobilising support for the pickets. But members and reps in branches, groups and on regional committees should discuss the NEC decision and if they agree with us, propose and pass motions outlining their concerns to send to the NEC and General Secretary. The more that do so, the bigger impact it will have. Please get in touch if you are planning to do so, or would like support.

It is also clear that control of the dispute is not in the hands of the rank-and-file. We have long argued that disputes, including demands and strategy should rest, democratically with the membership. There already appears to be a significant number of members and reps who disagree with today’s decision and we think there should be a forum for those individuals to discuss a way forward.

National Branches and Groups still retain the option of submitting requests for action to the National Disputes Committee and those passing the threshold already have a mandate. These committees may consider their membership and decide they want to take national action in support of the targeted action. They should discuss this with their membership and send requests to the NDC. Our expectation would be that the NDC should accept these requests as refusing them would represent a top-down block on members action. But branches and groups should not have to be in this position as a consequence of the misjudged strategy of the NEC!

We will be posting more in the coming days about organising discussions with branches and reps.

The NEC should reverse its decision to stand-down tens of thousands of members, but minimally need to articulate to members whether there will be any national action in the New Year.

Independent Left at PCS Conference

PCS Independent Left members and supporters hold organised interventions at Group and National conference. This year our members were responsible for writing and submitting motions, including but not limited to, proposing a campaigning strategy for the permanence of fixed-term members, calling for the future national pay ballot to be conducted on a disaggregated basis, for Solidarity with Ukraine and to end the unions unfair, unequal subs

We are the only group in the union to produce daily conference bulletins, responding to the debates and providing a perspective on upcoming motions. We also hold conference fringe meetings and were the only group to organise a conference social event.

The bulletins we produced this year are included below.

Ballots open in the DWP Group elections: Vote PCS Independent Left in DWP!

Ballots have opened for the election of Group Executive Committees in PCS and will run to the 19th of May.

These committees are responsible for all members in these groups and negotiate directly with them on all issues.

There are 2 key disputes in the DWP today, but at the present the Group leadership are making the same mistakes of the past. We cannot let individual workplaces fight alone, we cannot leave Temporary members out to dry. Both are symptomatic of a staffing crisis and a joint-up national campaign of action is required.


Independent Left candidates have been and are at the forefront of opposing office closures and demanding permanent contracts for casual staff. This needs to be a national strategy.
Vote Independent Left.

Members should have started receiving their ballot papers to their personal email addresses this week from ‘pcs@cesvotres.com’.

Please share the graphic below on social media to publicise our candidates and how we would change the union.

We will be adding more images with quotes from our candidates throughout the election period.

Ballots open: Vote PCS Independent Left!

Ballots have officially opened for the election of the PCS National Executive and will run to the 12th of May. Members should start receiving their ballot papers through the post over the next couple of days.

Please share the graphic below on social media to publicise our candidates and how we would change the union.

We will be adding more images with quotes from our candidates throughout the election period.