Socialist Worker

PCS conference: We need 'generalised offensive' to stop cuts

by Julie Sherry at PCS conference
Issue No. 2305

Striking to defend pensions on 30 November last year  (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Striking to defend pensions on 30 November last year (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The key debate at PCS conference was over the pensions fight (see Defiant PCS conference votes for more united pensions strikes), but delegates made a number of other significant decisions.

They called for raising the profile of the fight to defend pay. One motion was passed to “vehemently oppose” regional pay or so-called market facing pay “with whatever resources necessary”.

Another instructed the union’s national executive committee (NEC) to seek united action with public and private sector unions over pay. It stated, “Unity with other unions is extremely desirable, but not essential.”

There was a general thirst to debate tactics and discuss how these battles can be won.

Clara, a worker from National Museums Liverpool, drew lessons from a recent strike against low pay. She said, “We shamed our management and we won this miserly pay rise. But winning it really meant something to us because it gave us hope.”

Keith works in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London.

He said that pay was “part of a generalised offensive” and argued that the trade union movement was failing to “lead a generalised response”.

The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) group conference voted to ballot for strikes against privatisation, job cuts and draconian sick leave policy. HMRC is a 60,000-strong section of the union.


A desire to encourage strikes against localised attacks was also clear among delegates.

Four Merseyside Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) branches had to fight to get a motion heard that criticised the union’s National Disputes Committee. The committee had failed to act on a request to escalate action to a three-day strike in a dispute over the forced transfer of 100 jobs.

Delegates overwhelmingly voted to get the motion back onto the agenda after it was initially removed, to the sound of loud cheers and clapping.

Helen Flanagan from Wigan said, “We need to let management know that we’re serious. Branches need a clear route-way—we want that three day strike.”

A three-day strike in Merseyside DWP is set for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week.

PCS members in the Garston call centre in Merseyside picketed out the Sunday shift as part of their overtime ban last weekend.

Conference voted to affiliate PCS to a number of campaigns and organisations.

They included the Middle Eastern & North African Workers Solidarity Network, Show Racism the Red Card, the International Lesbian and Gay Association, and the Campaign for Rights and Actions of Irish Communities Fighting the Cuts.

And delegates attended fringes on issues such as disability, Palestine solidarity and anti-fascism.

Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, addressed conference and spoke to a fringe meeting on fighting racism.

A Socialist Workers Party fringe on crisis and austerity in Europe attracted over 40 delegates. And an international rally heard from speakers from the European resistance, including Greek and Spanish activists.

Despina Spandou, a Greek trade unionist, gave an inspiring speech in the conference’s international session.

She said, “Now is the time to organise a general European strike, within 2012, within the next few months. We can achieve this.”

A motion calling for a general strike across Europe was overwhelmingly passed.

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