Socialist Worker

Revolution hits PCS!

Issue No. 1720

Civil servants

Revolution hits PCS!

By Hassan Mahamdallie

A POLITICAL upheaval is shaking the quarter of a million strong PCS civil servants' union. The right wing leader of the PCS, Barry Reamsbottom, suffered a massive humiliation last week. He failed to get the 50 branch nominations necessary to run for his own job in next month's general secretary elections. Socialist candidate and Sheffield activist Mark Serwotka, however, gained huge support from PCS branches across Britain.

The general secretary election will now be a fight between Mark Serwotka, who got 72 PCS branch nominations, and Blairite candidate Hugh Lanning, who got somewhere over 80. This means that a significant left challenge for the top post is underway. The end of Reamsbottom's career has been greeted with joy by most civil servants.

"People are very, very happy. It's like the overthrow of an authoritarian regime," said one. Throughout the 1990s Reamsbottom kept an iron grip on the former CPSA civil service union he headed before it merged to form the PCS. Reamsbottom was notorious for red-baiting and witch-hunting union activists. But the mood against him was clear at the PCS conference earlier this year where Reamsbottom was trounced on a whole number of issues.

This swing to the left at a rank and file level has been confirmed with the spectacular success of Mark Serwotka's campaign so far. A London civil servant says, "It was dead easy to get Mark nominated. People thought that he was clearly the best candidate. "They know he has a record of tearing management to shreds over issues like grievances and wrongful dismissal. People like the fact that Mark is an ordinary civil servant on a low wage, not a well-heeled bureaucrat like Lanning. And people like Mark's socialist programme. There is massive anger amongst civil servants, particularly over pay in areas like the Benefits Agency, and Mark is tapping into that."

A "PCS Must Fight Back" campaign has already been set up to make sure the message of Mark Serwotka's campaign gets into every workplace. There is no time to lose. Ballot papers go out on Tuesday 7 November. The closing date is Tuesday 5 December.

The formal socialist grouping in the PCS, Left Unity, performed a U-turn last weeked and said it would back Mark. This reversed its previous disastrous position of backing Lanning as a "stop Reamsbottom" candidate. Some of Left Unity's leadership even went so far as to nominate Lanning and campaign against Mark Serwotka!

There is still reluctance by Left Unity's leadership to wholeheartedly support the election's only socialist candidate. However, that should not stop Left Unity activists on the ground working to make sure the biggest vote possible for Mark Serwotka.

  • Get campaign material and collection sheets from PCS Must Fight Back, c/o 39 Vivian Road, Sheffield S5 6WJ. Phone 07949 646 392.
  • Rush donations and workplace collections to PCS Must Fight Back, c/o 50 College Point, Wolffe Gardens, Stratford, London E15 4JL.

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Article information

Sat 28 Oct 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1720
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