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.

Health unions consider action over pensions

When we went on strike earlier this year we did so in conjunction with teacher unions. If we take further action later this year it could be conjunction with health unions as well

The Guardian stated that:

Unions representing staff at every level of the health service are meeting tomorrow (25 August) to plan the first NHS-wide strike, in anticipation that current negotiations with the government over public sector pensions will fail by the autumn.

The paper reports:

One official representing 460,000 NHS staff in the talks said the prospect of failure felt “almost inevitable” and claimed ministers had refused to budge on the most fundamental issues – increasing members’ contributions and delaying the retirement age.

Of course the same is true of our pension talks as well; the government is not being serious about reaching an agreement.

As to the timing of possible joint action the Guardian reports:

The first week in November is being mooted for strike action by some of the civil service and teaching unions that walked out in June, but it is unlikely an NHS strike would take place at the same time. None of the health unions have balloted members for strike action and are unlikely to do so before government talks conclude at the end of October – unless the negotiations collapse before then.

The government through its actions is forcing the unions together. Of course the more of us who stick together then the more effective is any future action and the more powerful will be our voice.