Union members organise to resist "coup"

Submitted by martin on 26 May, 2002 - 1:08

From Alan Runswick of PCS Left Unity:

There has been a huge wave of opposition to the attempt to remove the elected President and General Secretary of PCS. Many Branches have already issued leaflets and emails to their members. Activists are organising membership meetings. PCS Headquarters has been deluged with protests. PCS members from across the political spectrum are outraged by the events of 23rd May. The coup plotters are isolated.
There is a strong mood amongst activists for a broad-based campaign to defend PCS democracy. The PCS President Janice Godrich, and the General Secretary elect Mark Serwotka, have therefore decided to take a personal initiative to draw together the various forces in the Union that are opposed to the attempted coup.

The aims of this united campaign will be: - That the employment of the former General Secretary Barry Reamsbottom with PCS cease on 31st May; - That the elected General Secretary Mark Serwotka take up office on 1st June; - That Janice Godrich be recognised as the President of PCS and that she exercise the powers of that post.

Janice and Mark are inviting key activists from across the Union to develop an inclusive and broad based campaign. The meeting will be in London on the evening of Monday 27th May. The aim is to hold an organising meeting which will be followed by further activity. Individual invitations are being issued. Janice and Mark consider that these will include representatives of all currents of democratic thought in PCS, plus some leading independent activists.

Activists who have not been invited but would like to attend should email pcsleftunity@tesco.net.

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Background from Chris Hickey

The facts are:

a) the National Moderate Group, a very peculiar and Left-hating right wing group, won an absolute majority in the NEC elections;

b) the sane, more trade union oriented, members of 'Membership First' (the sane element variously describe themselves as Social Democrats or Socialists depending on age, taste, and political education but they were the dominant, blairite hued, faction on the previous NEC) were pretty much wiped out in those elections;

c) the Inland Revenue wing of Membership First (a grouping which used to be called Mainstream in the days when there was an independent Inland Revenue [Staff Federation] union) secured a number of seats but are a more red-baiting crew than their ''social democratic' chums at b above, and at least some if this Mainstream/MF wing are more like Reamsbottom's Mod Group;

d) Left Unity made gains in the NEC elections (in the administrative and support grade categories) and gained President and Administrative Grade Vice-President. These will not be enough, however, to seriously challenge the Mod control and certainly not once some or all of the IR Membership First group vote with the Mods;

e) the difficulty for the Mods was the Left's hold on the General Secretary - with Reamsbottom due to take early retirement soon - and Presidential posts;

f) shortly after the end of the Biennial Delegate Conference Barry Reamsbottom called an emergency NEC. Contrary to the rules of the Union he refused to consult the President and, indeed, did not tell her what the meeting was being called for;

g) the meeting was plainly planned by the Moderate Group;

h) the President, Janice Godrich, declared the meeting unconstitutional but the Mods proceeded with a meeting anyway (which they are claiming was a bona fide NEC). A Maninstream/MF character called Euers took the chair;

i) there was a considerable commotion but a number of so-called NC decisions were taken. These inclded the 'decision' that Reamsbotom would remain General Secretary until his original retirement year of 2004; that Serwotka would not be General Secretary (the 'NEC' deciding that his election was unlawful on the basis of some legal advice obtained by Reamsbottom); and that the President and Left Unity members be excluded from all NEC sub-cttees.

It is an attempt at a coup within PCS. In its fundamentals it is not about Serwotka: it is a declaration that the Left can never win an election that matters.

A legal challenge will be mounted by the President and Mark Serwotka in the name of the Union. At present it is expected that the case will be heard in the High Court this week. (Interestingly, the SWP and all other Left Groups are supporting the legal challenge).

In the meantime branches are starting to protest; - a campaign for a recall conference will kick off; - petitions of PCS members will be collected; - membership meetings are being arranged.

Anybody who knows anybody in the PCS must seek to rouse them on this issue. It is, at the least, one of the most blatant and dramatic assaults ever mounted internally on a Union's democracy.

For my part I also intend to tell members that it is about the misuse of their funds and resources - the Mod coup plotters are seeking to use the Union's resources for their own factional ends in their coup attempt.

The task now is to build the biggest and broadest campaign possible within and beyond the Union. There are some deluded individuals who want to wage the pro-democracy campaign through, and only through, Left Unity as if all Union members do not have a vested interest in repelling the Mods and in securing Mark's position.

It is quite plain that while the Left may be the driving force of the campaign to stop the coup the campaign can and must reach out to any members and groupings willing to stand up for Union democracy. There is likely to be a London branches sponsored meeting next Thursday. I will let comrades have final details as soon as I have them.

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