By a Civil Servant
The Democracy slate (made up of Left Unity and the PCS Democrats) has won the National Executive Committee elections in the PCS for the second year running.
In response to this victory the union's hard right-wing group, the Moderates, have split. One faction of the Moderates have joined up with right wingers in the Inland Revenue to form yet another grouping in the union!
The strength of the slate should not be overestimated. All the Democracy slate of NEC candidates were nominated by at least 105 branches. The Moderates by just 10 branches. Yet the slate only won by a margin of 800 to 2,000 votes. So the Democracy vote is not in direct proportion to the number of branches that supported it. This is an example of the left (the vast majority of branches who made nominations support Left Unify) being able to win AGMs but not directly translate that into votes.
Although the right wing is now split they are still a threat. The more intelligent of them (who have jumped ship and signed up with the Inland Revenue right wing) realise that relying on crude red baiting by the Moderates alone no longer works. They know they have to articulate a programme on pay and job cuts as well. Allied to a more sophisticated "red scare" (more Daily Mail than the Sun) they figure that in a union which has such a high proportion of members in management grades they will find a ready audience.
Of course they can only succeed if the left alternative is deemed to be failing. The major fronts in the year ahead (and the next few years) are pay, pensions and job losses.
On pensions we await the formal proposals to increase the retirement age to 65. 40,000 job cuts have been announced. On pay we do have a fighting policy in the form of motion 155.
This calls on the union to seek advice as to whether a legal strike ballot can be held over the Treasury's budgetary control of the pay bargaining units in the civil service. The service is divided into 229 different bargaining units. The Treasury directly controls the amount of money each of these bargaining units can spend on pay increases. Since June last year the Treasury has been capping pay increases. They have said they will keep this squeeze up for years to come.
In 2003 the budget cap sparked off disputes in a number of bargaining units. More will come this year as well. Yet these sectional disputes do not target the ultimate pay master.
Motion 155 says that if the legal advice is positive then we lodge a claim against the Treasury asking for more money. If that money is not forthcoming the NEC is asked to consider a civil service-wide ballot.
This focus on the Treasury targets the controlling hand on pay; it also allows the union to run a national campaign and to run, if necessary a national dispute so deploying the entire strength of the union in the civil service.
It shows to members that something can and is being done on pay. If done properly we can turn our 10 to 1 majority in branch nominations to a 10 to 1 vote majority in votes.