The ballot opens this week for the elections to the national executive of the PCS civil service workers’ union.
The union’s existing leadership of the Democracy Alliance – a coalition of the socialist Left Unity and centre-left PCS Democrats – along with general secretary Mark Serwotka, has been the force behind the PCS’s jobs, pay and conditions campaign.
This has laid the groundwork for the May Day protests and the prospect of joint public sector pay strikes.
Right wing groupings within the union opposed the campaign from the outset and want a return to the bad old days when their stranglehold kept the union divided, weak and ineffective.
Socialist Worker urges all supporters and readers to vote for the Democracy Alliance slate in the national executive elections and for Left Unity candidates in the various PCS group elections.
Unfortunately, a few activists, frustrated by the inept and lacklustre handling of last year’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) dispute, have joined a small breakaway “alternative” slate that has no serious chance of winning.
But by splitting the left vote they may strengthen the right wing’s chances, particularly in the important DWP group.
The new “alternative’ grouping claims no principled policy differences with Left Unity.
The one policy that does distinguish them from Left Unity is the bureaucratic tactic of championing selective action by a tiny minority of members while leaving the mass of PCS membership passive back in the offices.
Such tactics failed miserably in a past dispute and left the civil service unions vulnerable to two decades of pay fragmentation, cuts and privatisation.
The PCS’s lead in the fight against Gordon Brown’s public sector pay freeze and initiatives that led to the public sector day of action on 1 May have all centred around a belief in, and commitment to, mobilising the membership.
The prospect of joint pay action by teachers, health workers and civil servants later this year follows from this strategy.
Any faltering now or any boost to the old “do-nothing” right wing will be a setback for the whole movement and it is vital that activists work to return Democracy Alliance and Left Unity candidates.
Sue Bond is deputy president of the PCS. Andy Reid is a national executive member. Paul Williams is the PCS Department for Transport group president. They are all candidates in the executive elections and write in a personal capacity. For a full list of candidates go to www.leftunity.org.uk