On the first day of the conference of the PCS civil service union in Brighton, 21 May, a composite backed by the Independent Left on pay was only narrowly defeated.
The debate centred round two emergency motions, one from the National Executive (NEC), and a composited backed both by the Independent Left and by the Socialist Party, which until recently dominated the union leadership. It went to a card vote. The NEC motion passed 62,000 to 60,000, so the alternative composite fell. The NEC motion could be summed up as “do the same again”.
PCS’s latest attempt to beat the 50% turnout threshold demanded by the Tories’ Trade Union Act 2016 in a ballot for strikes on pay failed narrowly, and the NEC wants to make another push. Its motion ruled out “disaggregated” ballots, which would permit strikes in departments with over 50% turnout even if the overall average is below.
The alternative motion also supported a new push, but called for wider consultation and discussion with the membership, in a way which enables the membership to make an informed choice on aggregated or disaggregated balloting. It also took up questions of union organising, and issues of conditions as well as pay.
The NEC motion was backed by close supporters of general secretary Mark Serwotka, by the Socialist View section of Left Unity, and by the SWP. The conference continues on 22 and 23 May.