The conference of the PCS civil service workers’ union in Brighton last week reaffirmed the union’s commitment to the battles over public sector pay and against the fascist British National Party (BNP) – see pages 2 and 5.
It also voted to endorse the union’s agreement with the government that aims to take steps to avoid compulsory redundancies.
The union has been fighting against New Labour’s plans to slash 100,000 civil service jobs since 2005.
One of the highlights of the conference was the debate over victimised PCS branch secretary Eddie Fleming. The Child Support Agency (CSA) in Hastings sacked Eddie for carrying out his trade union duties.
Conference gave Eddie two standing ovations and voted to redouble the union’s campaign to reinstate him. Conference also voted to oppose the victimisation of other PCS reps.
Steve West, of the Department for Work and Pensions in Kirkcaldy, Fife, told the conference, “The attacks on the union are taking place because management wants to soften us up before the CSA becomes a non-departmental body.
“They want to chain us to our desks, not allow us to take paid breaks and squeeze every last drop of sweat from us.
“The same department that sacked a trade unionist for standing for justice and equality has allowed another member of staff in Hastings to stand for the BNP.
“The BNP wants to repeal equality legislation and admires Adolf Hitler. Management should be ashamed of themselves.
“Let’s send a message to all managers – don’t mess with our reps.”
Eddie Fleming told Socialist Worker, “I have had fantastic support for my campaign. There were over 200 people at a fringe meeting during the conference to hear sacked Manchester nurse Karen Reissmann, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and myself.
“The attack on me is an attack on every PCS member. But everyone in the PCS has stood together and we are sending a message to management that we’re here to stay.”
Sean Dooley, a PCS rep in CSA Hastings, added, “The branch executive committee and the members are completely behind Eddie and the campaign to get him reinstated.
“Management are attacking our terms, conditions and reps. They thought they could beat the union by cutting off the head of the hydra, but other heads have grown back.”
Other crucial decisions taken by the conference include a vote to resist the introduction and extension of Lean management techniques and the establishment of a call centre workers’ charter.
Delegates also voted to support a twinning campaign with Palestinians facing Israeli oppression and in support of the extension and proper resourcing of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which combats the exploitation of casual, migrant and seasonal workers.
There was also a very well-attended Public Services Not Private Profit meeting.
Over 150 people heard John McDonnell, the left wing Labour MP, Mark Serwotka and Jane Loftus, the CWU union’s president, speak of the need for unity in the fights against privatisation and for decent pay.