The national strike called by PCS on the 5 November was solid, with about 200,000 staff were on strike. Encouraging report backs show a high level of picketing across the country and that all the rallies were well attended.
Confirming the old adage that unions who take action pick up members, the PCS has added several thousand new members over the last few weeks.
Following the strike the union is turning to political campaigning on the issues and for industrial action in bargaining units where they think they can deliver it. It is a strategy that rests on the confidence and industrial muscle of members in the different bargaining areas.
On one level this is sensible. If Depart of Work and Pensions members are prepared to fight on cuts (and this is the largest department) they should not be held back by members in departments where the cuts are considerably smaller.
However, members in departments such as Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Health, where the cuts are also severe, have no real tradition of industrial action, and it will be difficult to defeat the job losses if they have to fight alone. The smaller groups (the separate PCS organisations in the 190-plus delegated bargaining units) could be linked together, but our past experience of co-ordinating the actions of the groups has been poor.
Last year such co-ordination was attempted over pay but the DWP group pulled out of the action at the last moment as the Socialist Party /Scottish Socialist Party dominated DWP committee thought (wrongly) that there was an opening in their pay negotiation. Without any consultation with the other groups they withdrew from the action. Whilst the idea of group autonomy prevails then this may happen again.
In any case, the policy of “back to the groups” will not deliver the action necessary to defend a civil service wide pension scheme and win a return to a national pay system. Pay and pensions are the glue that will hold the national membership together in a common fight in a way that the attacks on jobs and sick leave cannot because those attacks will hit different members in different ways, at different times.
We need national action combined with an intelligent campaign of selective action.
To win the PCS has to put itself on a war footing, and one element of that is to start raising a levy amongst the membership to boost the strike fund. The need for a levy has been raised repeatedly by Socialist Caucus National Executive members aligned with the Socialist Caucus political grouping. It has finally been agreed but we await the full details of its operation. This needs to happen quickly if the union leadership is to lead a serious battle. If the dispute is led with imagination and boldness there is no doubt the PCS can win.
by a civil servant