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Monday, 22 December 2014

The Real agenda of PCS union suspending elections for a year

SO the PCS union has alarmed many who care about union democracy and decency in the union movement w by suspending elections for a year all in the idea of "saving money". In a excellent article detailing the hows and why's PCS your voice a publication of the independent left in PCS who i believe have no party line as such wrote the following piece today i find it interesting reading given when i was a member of the socialist party it was talked for years there would be a situation like this happening. "The PCS National Executive Committee has taken the decision to suspend elections to the NEC and to Group Executive Committees for the coming year. Your Voice condemns this decision as a mistake and wholly unnecessary. The NEC made this and several other decisions at an emergency meeting on Thursday 18 December. The meeting also decided on staffing reductions and budget cuts, whilst confirming the sell off of the HQ building in Clapham. The rationale given for this was the scale of government attacks on PCS. A number of government departments are currently in the process of removing check-off, the facility to pay union subscriptions through payroll. This has left union reps rushing to sign members up to Direct Debit, with more and more other activity put on hold as the year has progressed, to combat a potentially massive loss of funds for the union. This threat, and in particular the fact that elections would take resources away from the Direct Debit campaign, has been used as justification for the suspension. The costs of elections were also brought up in favour of the decision. Whilst recognising dire threat that the removal of check off presents, alongside other measures such as union busting in HMRC, we nonetheless feel that suspending democracy was the wrong decision to take. On a practical level, we know that there is under-engagement in elections just as there is a shortfall of take up for Direct Debit. Could both issues not have been addressed together? An election campaign would surely present an ideal time to engage with members and promote the need to defend the union, while more simply Direct Debit forms and literature could have been included in the mail shots. In terms of cost cutting, there are no doubt any number of measures which could have made the ballots cheaper without doing away with them altogether. The savings may not have been as stark as the £600,000 quoted for this decision, but the loss wouldn’t be as great either. Democracy is not simply a cost to be reduced, but a necessary part of organising as workers. Your Voice believes in a union run by its members at a rank-and-file level, and that requires more democracy rather than less. This should be a fundamental tenet of what defines us, not a niceity to be discarded when inconvenient. There is much more that could be said on this issue. We are sure more will be in the run up to AGMs and Conference. In the meantime, we urge all those who oppose this decision to argue for their branch to adopt that same position and write to the NEC urging that they reverse it at their next meeting in January. Facing off the attacks on our union from this government mean not only standing our ground but advancing forward. If we take a single step backwards, in terms of democracy or organisation, then that is a concession too many to our foes. Further to this is the awkward situation or not so awkward if you are in favour of a lash up for the PCS with the unite union which for me has been the socialist partys aim for a long time to wrestle control of the biggest union in the country out of labours grasp. All this to aid in their dream of a new workers party i.e a labour party mark 2 but with the SP as its radical leadership of course. The independent left in PCS have wrote some good things on this issue and expose the sham for what it is. They continue. "The Independent Left believes that the NEC’s suspension of elections is related to the efforts of the central leadership to steer PCS into Unite (whatever NEC members were actually told regarding the suspension of elections – most of the 13 who voted for suspending democracy are voting sheep). The core leadership (the shepherds if you wish) need to submerge into Unite because: • Senior officers’ huge salaries and associated pensions would be protected. • They would be inside a financially secure trade union having handed over the proceeds from the sale of PCS HQ to Unite. • The ruling regime could look forward to running the Unite Public Sector Group and without having to ever accept its responsibility for the shockingly incompetent manner in which has led PCS (they would not willingly give up the leadership of an independent trade union to play second fiddle in Unite). • They would in fact preside over a wider and more securely based public sector membership. • The Socialist Party would have high hopes of dominating Unite’s own “left wing” grouping through the much bigger PCS Left Unity membership and indeed of linking up with those with an apparent desire to disaffiliate Unite from the Labour Party. • By effectively moving PCS elections to later in 2015 or indeed to 2016 (they are reserving the right not hold a vote for up to 12 months) the NEC move PCS more in line with the constitutional structures of Unite. • The suspension of elections and talk of bankruptcy might bring an otherwise recalcitrant PCS Conference into line on Unite merger and even if it doesn’t the self-elected NEC would be beyond Conference’s control if it steers PCS into Unite. The core leadership, Mark Serwotka and the Socialist Party, cannot risk an election as they might lose seats and so not be as dominant as presently they are, or worse still they might even lose the NEC. Rather than run that risk and therefore the chance to ‘save’ the union by destroying it by a lash up with Unite, they self-elect themselves into continuing power. If you can suspend elections you certainly ignore any conference decision regarding a (sub) merger with Unite. The core leadership is now going for broke; they are desperate to join up with that union. As their actions show they are sufficiently ruthless as to deny ordinary members a say in who runs the union; do you think they will allow delegates a greater say? Let members have a vote!! Further reasoning as to why the SP think this way and why they would set to benifit hugely from a potential PCS/Unite merger. Because they think they can take it over and break it from the Labour Party! Their analysis is that organised left grouping within Unite, the United Left is weak and they can take it over. As that grouping controls most of the Unite NEC they think they will take over the NEC. Once they have the NEC then they will break Unite from the Labour Party. Of course this is the sort of machine politics that the SP has successfully practiced in PCS (take over Left Unity, LU takes over the union etc). Therefore they believe that Unite will be just PCS writ large. Also they are pinning their hopes on all the public sector workers in Unite (council workers, NHS and former PCS) being put into one group. Such a hope is mentioned in a PCS bulletin and by their speakers. Of course they would hope to dominate this public sector group (PCS would be the biggest component of such a set up) and so be bigger fish in a bigger pond than at present in PCS. This group would be their power base within Unite and no doubt a source of full time officer jobs for their comrades. Of course all the above is mechanical (everything just follows from one thing to another; take over the United left, then the NEC etc.) and does not involve winning the members over but SP would believe that if you win the superstructure of the union and the organised left, then the members will follow – or at least they will not get in the way. We have a different conception of politics to the SP. Ours involves winning members and activists to ideas, creating a rank and file movement that really does control the leadership; not as a means to winning places on committees. Also as said the SP conception is mechanical. For example if they did succeed in winning the United Left in Unite they seem to think they could just take it over intact. But it is highly likely that the UL would split and a new ‘left’ would be created. Certainly the Labour Party and full time officials would not stand idly by and let SP operate unchallenged. So what would the members get out of all this? Well no doubt a SP comrade would argue that Unite under their control or if they had a significant voice within it, would be a radical union in the same way as PCS; that breaking from the Labour Party is a vital necessity for the working class. We have our doubts as to the former. Whilst PCS does take strike action it does not- as you would assume a radical union would- openly challenge other unions, appeal direct over the heads of other union leaders to the members in those unions, argue a radical change in the political system (the union’s demand for PR maybe part of such a change but in itself is not that radical change) and for a radical democratisation of the economy (saying that austerity should end is not the same thing as saying who should own what). The SP have made no substantive real case as to why a transfer to Unite would be better for members but, as we argue above, the proposed link up with Unite is not really for the members." This is not me having a swipe at my old party although i have many issues with them this should be something which concerns many union members who hold democracy close to their hearts of doing things. with thanks and solidarity to those over at your voice PCS and the independent left grouping in the PCS union their blog can be read at http://pcsindependentleft.com/2014/05/25/pcs-why-does-the-socialist-party-want-a-transfer-to-unite/?relatedposts_hit=1&relatedposts_origin=1342&relatedposts_position=1

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