On 23 July I attended a PCS anti-cuts campaign briefing meeting. The 35 attending delegates consisted of activists from all of the principal governmental bargaining units, along with their full-time officials.
The meeting was held to inform branch officers about key recent recommendations of our National Executive and dates for activities and demonstrations (both PCS and TUC sponsored initiatives).
Our Assistant General Secretary Chris Baugh told us that the immediate priority of the union was to get Parliamentary support from an “unholy” combination of nationalist parties, Labour and Lib-Dem rebels, combined with a letter-writing campaign to local MPs, in order to defeat the the government’s attack on our redundancy compensation scheme.
Other issues highlighed were:
• our union’s alternative economic proposals (Tax Justice Campaign and arguments for greater public investment)
• building up trades councils and anti-cuts campaigns
• the need to recruit and strengthen workplace branches.
The TUC have now called a lobby of Parliament on 19 October and regional “days of action” on 22 and 23 October.
The PCS is calling a Cuts Conference on 6 November and a “mass” demonstration in the spring.
More importantly, Baugh stated that the Executive would meet in September, after sounding out the membership, to discuss tactics and strategy around national industrial action.
Delegates raised the issue of a pressing need for a strike levy, if strikes are to be open-ended and designed to win. Baugh said that would be discussed by the Executive in September: “there was a definite need to build up a ‘campaigns and disputes fund’, but difficulties could arise in the logistics of the levy. Would it be £1 extra from subs or a voluntary/workplace levy?”
Other delegates stressed the need to prepare for attacks from the High Court over balloting for industrial action, and the need to make sure that legal requirements for balloting were carried out.
Questions were also raised about the pay scales of the Executive (the highest PCS full time salary is over £80,500), especially if the membership were to be levied for a disputes fund. Unfortunately Comrade Baugh had left the meeting by this stage.
The PCS is now on a war footing. The union, nationally and regionally, is re-organising its structures; strengthening ties between branch reps and national organisers, refocusing its training initiatives towards lobbying, politicising, developing town committees and trade councils, public speaking and dealing with media, as well as generating anti-cuts propaganda for both membership and the public. The structures are in place, or at least are being developed, it is now for the rank-and-file to mobilise.