Delegates to the PCS civil service workers’ union met last week in the charged atmosphere of resistance to government cuts (see page 16).
The vote at the start of the conference to ballot 270,000 of the union’s members for strikes on 30 June set the tone.
Conference voted to oppose cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Alex Paterson of National Archives explained, “This is an attack on the fundamental right to work in a safe environment.
There is to be an 89 percent cut in inspections, from 79,000 a year to 8,500 a year.”
Lesley Crowden’s father died alongside 166 others in the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988. In an emotional speech, she said, “If they spoke out about health and safety or trade union rights they would be ‘beached’ [refused work].
“Since then we had the Cullen Report and very few people have died in a high risk industry. It’s unbelievable the government wants to make these cuts. I don’t want any other child not to know their grandfather.”
On welfare, a resolution against “the most brutal government attack on poor and unemployed people since the creation of the welfare state” was passed.
A new PCS pamphlet was also launched—Welfare: An Alternative Vision.
Delegates condemned the increase in police violence on protests, and voted to support the Defend the Right to Protest campaign. The PCS also voted to continue its challenge to far-right groups, such as the British National Party and English Defence League.
Conference voted to use coordinated strikes to force back the government’s pay freeze. Jane Aitchison from Leeds DWP said, “This is a pay cut. We must fight for fair pay. We can’t afford not to.”
The union’s position on abortion—defending women’s right to choose—was reinforced. It was also decided to continue the process of consulting members on supporting candidates in elections.
The Middle East and North African uprisings won support.
Andy Lawson of DWP North London said, “The Arab Spring has demonstrated what’s possible when ordinary people take their lives into their own hands. Crucially, following militant strike action.”
John McDonnell MP said, “Union after union is now saying ‘enough’s enough’ and that we need to take industrial action. And union after union say if we’re going to take industrial action it’s better if we do it together.”