PCS: how to change the union

Submitted by AWL on 30 January, 2019 - 9:24

John Moloney is the Independent Left candidate for Assistant General Secretary of the civil service union PCS. Nominations opened on 17 January, and close on 7 March. Voting will run from 16 April to 9 May. Three rival candidates from the “broad left” bloc which has run the union for many years are also in play — Chris Baugh (the incumbent), Stella Dennis, and Lynn Henderson — though one of those may withdraw.

Moloney has given an interview to The Clarion outlining his platform in detail.

One of the questions was: why is there so little to show for a decade and a half of “left” and “Marxist” leadership of the union? He responded: The broad left bloc has won elections. They re a very effective electoral machine. But ′ all that s meant is that good activists have become full-time officials. The would¬be left in the union has become a conveyor belt for full¬time officials. People have become very well¬paid in cushy jobs. Left Unity [the dominant left¬wing bloc in the union, historically led by the Socialist Party] has solved the pay problems of people who were activists in the past by getting them jobs as full¬time officials. It's become a career mechanism.

There was never an attempt by the left leadership to change union culture. When Left Unity got a majority on the NEC [activists in what would become Independent Left] starting proposing motions for full¬time officers to be on, not even a worker’s wage, but merely a wage closer to the average wage of members.

Left Unity and the Socialist Party vehemently opposed that. They never wanted to change the culture; they were content with a top¬down, TUC culture. They were the people who became the full¬time officials and enriched themselves. They didn't want to change things because that would ve meant adversely affecting ′ ′ their own material circumstances. If I m elected, that won t change things dramatically by itself. The AGS is just one person...

I urge people to vote for my comrades standing for the National Executive Committee as part of the Independent Left slate. But even if we had a majority, that wouldn t be enough. This is a long¬term struggle to turn the union around.
One person isn t going to change much, but one person can help. One person can report back to members what's happening, and be a voice for alternative strategies.

You can say to members, “this is what s happening, this is why you should mobilise”. If we engage enough members in the project of transforming the union, I believe we can change PCS from what it is currently — a top¬down, typical TUC¬affiliated union — into what I believe a trade union should be, a class¬struggle union.

Q. The PCS NEC has announced pay demands of 8% or 10% in its national pay campaign. Do you support this?

A. The main issue for civil servants, in my view, is equality. Equality of pay, and equality of process. We have a situation now where men and women across different departments are paid differently. The union’s main demand should be equalisation of pay across the civil service and associated industries. Our procedures are riddled with racism, sexism, and other biases. We should tackle that head on.

Q. How can the PCS’s prospective national pay ballot be won?

A. At last year’s conference, we all knew we’d be having a ballot this year, but we as a union haven’t been working since then, so we’re now doing preparatory work we should’ve done much earlier. There needs to be an insistent campaign of propaganda amongst members. We should’ve been doing that from last May. My conception of a pay campaign is around equality, with propaganda that highlights the inequalities within the civil service. That could be a vital motivator of members.

Our key task is to propagandise amongst our members. It’s vitally important we mobilise the rank-and¬file. The union must also seriously take on the employer directly in the workplace itself. What we have at the moment is a shutdown on freedom of speech and freedom of association in the workplace. We’re effectively banned from going around talking to members. We have to challenge that head on — legally, politically, but also industrially.

Q. What would you do, if elected, to more directly involve the union rank¬and¬file in the process of negotiation?

A. Negotiations should be open. While we probably can’t go as far as Solidarnosc and do live broadcasts of negotiations to mass meetings of members, partly because many people would be bored to death by it, we should clearly refuse confidentiality agreements. We should be open with members and tell members what’s happening in negotiations. The bulk of all negotiating teams should be lay reps and officials. Full¬time officials should be there, but to help make the tea, go out and get legal advice, or whatever. They should be auxiliary to the main people, who should be the rank¬and¬file members.

Q. How will Brexit feature in your campaign platform?

A. I’m pro-Remain, and believe there should be another referendum. I’m for freedom of movement. I do not accept the argument that workers coming into this country depress wages; the people who depress wages are employers. We should say that straightforwardly. Both my parents are immigrants who came to this country for economic reasons. I couldn’t sign up to policies that would’ve meant my parents would never have come to this country. I’m for every EU citizen having the right to work for the civil service, and I’m for new migrants coming into this country having the right to join the civil service.

I also want a different kind of Europe. Instead of the Europe we have now, dominated by big corporations, I want a Europe of a united working class. That’s the kind of Europe we should be going for. In the here¬and¬now, our key task is to defeat Brexit.

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