DELEGATES FROM the PTC civil service union met in Scarborough last week against a backdrop of continuing low pay and government attacks. The delegates were split up into their 'groups', such as Inland Revenue, Employment Service (ES), and so on.
But even with the fragmentary nature of the gathering it was clear that there is frustration at the lack of a fightback by the union. This showed itself as delegates took the opportunity to overturn their group executive committees on various issues. The question of pay was constantly raised. A Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food delegate told Socialist Worker, 'Last year's pay deal was crap. 'Our motion committing the group to take a stronger stand was passed unanimously. The discussion then became about how we make sure we get industrial action.'
Where delegates raised political issues they gained a good hearing. A Benefit Agency member said, 'There was a huge audience for what we were saying. People are pissed off with Labour.' An ES delegate said, 'There was no opposition to motions criticising welfare reform. The battle is not whether there needs to be opposition to Blair, but how to turn conference resolutions into a reality.'
However, the established left in the union is fixated on winning elections rather than building confidence to fight on the ground. However, rather than see the weakness of its strategy, the 'Left Unity' grouping put the blame on what it calls 'member apathy'. This stance is pulling it further to the right into electoral alliances with the centre 'Moderate' forces in the union.