Fighting talk but no action

Lee Rock, national secretary of the PCSU Socialist Caucus, reports on the annual conference of the Public and Commercial Services Union

Nearly one thousand delegates of the Public and Commercial Services Union met in Brighton for their June 6-10 week-long conference. The 300,000-strong civil service union is led by self-proclaimed Marxists. The Socialist Party-Scottish Socialist Party bloc (with the uncritical support of the Socialist Workers Party) dominates the union at all levels. The national president is a member of the SSP and a large number of the national executive committee and an increasing number of full-timers are members of the SP/SSP. For these reasons alone this union is one that puts the ideas of these organisations to the test. And what a test it is, with New Labour declaring their intention to cut 100,000 civil service jobs (ie, a cut of 20%) over the next few years. The response so far has been a one-day strike over six months ago. Since then thousands of jobs have disappeared. In the largest department, the department for work and pensions (DWP) over 10,000 jobs have been lost in the last 12 months. There are another 30,000 jobs to go, which would bring the number of DWP workers down to 100,000. Strike action planned for March 23 over pensions, pay and job cuts was called off by the national executive at the 11th hour when the government promised talks on pensions. Since then, New Labour has been re-elected and serious talks have yet to start. Meanwhile job cuts continue to take place. These job cuts also lead to an inevitable worsening of the service to some of the most deprived sections of society. The left-led section executives are placing great stock in their pledge to halt compulsory redundancies, but in most workplaces throughout the civil service the campaign does not amount to much. For example, in the DWP schemes for voluntary redundancy are generally massively oversubscribed, as these low-paid members hate the worsening conditions they face. The executive has no idea of how to stop the staffing crisis starting to bite, as numbers are cut. Motions promising action were once again overwhelmingly carried, though a mood of cynicism is increasing amongst those working in local offices. The positions adopted by conference were again hailed by the SP/SSP and the SWP as great victories. But they fail in their papers to mention the cuts that have taken place and the fact that the pay gap in the civil service continues to widen. Unless the national executive can be forced to fight, the legacy of the Socialist Party-led union with has Mark Serwotka as its general secretary will be 100,000 jobs gone without a fight. Such an outcome will be a defeat for the entire left. In contrast to the national picture, a strike ballot is to take place in one region. Over 10,000 members of the DWP London are being balloted for continuous strike action against job cuts and relocations. Activists in the union need to invite speakers from London DWP to membership meetings and branch committees to hear about the plans in the capital. The only way that the employers' schemes can be effectively opposed is through national action and we need to use the London strike as an example of what is needed. www.pcssocialistcaucus.org.uk