One of the predecessor unions of PCS, the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA) was famous in the trade union movement as a battleground between the right-wing of the labour movement and the left wing. Today’s Morning Star throws light on what went on.
Secret meetings between leaders of the unions and a hated Tory government, to discuss how to deal with members of the Militant (now the Socialist Party) like John Macreadie were just the tip of an iceberg that involved collaboration to get union reps sacked when they led strikes. These union reps weren’t troublemakers or spies, they were ordinary members organising in their workplace.
Referenced in the article is John Ellis’ famous smear in the Sun on September 18, 1987, which attacked “lefties” in the union. The “dirty half dozen” included current PCS Assistant General Secretary and LU member Chris Baugh. Chris’ hard work on the NEC has been instrumental in securing a collective agreement protecting apprentices in the Civil Service from the current Tory government.
Thanks to the work of the Broad Left in CPSA, and PCS Left Unity, the union is open and democratic. The number of unelected senior positions has been whittled down dramatically, and elected lay reps exercise control of the union at all levels. We have an elected left General Secretary proud to stand up for our members rather than attacking them in an anti-worker rag like the Sun.
Instead of having to spend our time fighting against our own union, to force it to take the concerns of members seriously, the NEC and Group Executive Committees are instructed by annual conference. The Left Unity members elected to NEC or GEC carry out these instructions as a matter of principle.
Famously, one year, the old right wing leadership of the union conspired to settle a pay claim by balloting members whilst the activist reps were at conference and voting to oppose settlement of the claim. The continuing success of PCS Left Unity in the elections each year is what ensures that this never happens again.
Thatcher’s attitude shows how dangerous the government thought the socialist left in the Civil Service. That hasn’t changed, as the attack on members paying their subs by check-off shows – a union busting tactic that was also considered by Thatcher.
The clear threat posed by the Left-leadership of PCS is shown in the withdrawal of facility time for members of the NEC. It is shown in the documents leaked from HMRC that outline a conscious union-busting strategy. It is now further shown in the attempt by Civil Service departments to not recognise the union in the privatised areas that are being renationalised. Instead of bringing these workers back into the Civil Service, with full union rights, the government wants to override TUPE laws and de-recognise PCS in these areas. The union’s Left leadership and reps will campaign fiercely against this.
There should be one, united left in PCS. The right to tendency in PCS Left Unity ensures that minority opinions on the left are heard, where consensus cannot be arrived at. The annual elections to LU national committee, and elections to the slate of candidates put forward for NEC and GEC and other posts ensure the maximum possible unity, and protect the activist, lay-led traditions of the union.
We call on members to vote for all Left Unity candidates in the coming election. We call on all socialists and activists intent on opposing Tory austerity and building the fight back to join PCS Left Unity.