Socialist Worker

A chance to change union

Issue No. 1853

Janice Godrich is the president of the PCS civil servants' union and a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. She spoke to Socialist Worker about the upcoming elections to the union's national executive, which begin on Friday 6 June. The socialist Left Unity group and the PCS Democrats group are standing a united list in an attempt to defeat the right wing Moderates group that has dominated the union.

'THESE elections are very important because they give the members a chance to change the union. Over the last 12 months the misnamed Moderates have made every attempt to undermine our democratic processes.

'They launched a coup against the elected general secretary Mark Serwotka in May of last year. They have tried to frustrate the union implementing conference policy. These elections are only happening because members voted in a ballot to have annual elections and annual conferences. This vote overturned the recommendation of the union executive.

'The elections are important, not just for the sake of winning, but for implementing fighting policy. In the recent elections to the group executive committees, which represent members in different civil service departments, the left secured good results in the Department of Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue. These two groups make up around half of the union's membership.

'John McGowan, a vice-president of the union and a key figure in the coup attempt, was defeated. Members realised that they need a left leadership to secure decent pay, challenge privatisation and protect jobs. What is paramount, in whatever election takes place, is that people have a socialist alternative to vote for.

'Working people in Scotland have put their faith in New Labour for years. It is clear from the Scottish elections that when socialists stand on a serious and organised platform their policies get serious support.

'Six SSP candidates standing against war, for peace and against privatisation were elected to the Scottish Parliament. The lessons from that victory should be taken across Britain.

'Recent elections across the trade unions, including Mark Serwotka's, are a sign that people are looking for an alternative to the established candidates. People realise that they need a leadership to campaign for national pay bargaining and against privatisation.

'It is to Mark's credit that he's launched a campaign on these issues and to defend pensions. We have been determined not to let the Moderates detract from implementing policies that would improve members' lives.

'When Mark was elected in December 2000 PCS had 260,000 members-now we have 288,000. When a union prioritises recruitment and organisation people join. The union has to go out to the members. Mark and I have prioritised this. We don't want a union top heavy with bureaucrats. We want all the resources directed to the front line where members need support.

'I am not a career trade unionist-I have spent 18 out of 20 years combining my trade union activities with work in the civil service.

'To win this election we must not be complacent. We have the best opportunity in a number of years to change the union. It will not be easy. Everyone-the right wing, their allies in the media, government and movement-will be doing everything to discredit the left. They fear the policies we stand for. The PCS has its first annual conference on 8 and 9 July. I'd like people to imagine what they'll feel like at that conference if the left has won a victory in the elections.

'I'd also like them to imagine what they'll feel like if we haven't. People have to argue in their branches to ensure that a recommendation goes out that members vote for the Democracy slate.

'The elections last four weeks, so we have to keep campaigning right through the election period. People should invite a speaker from the Democracy slate to their branch or office to galvanise support and maximise the vote in an area. They should identify poorly organised workplaces and organise to leaflet them. Let's win these elections and change members lives for the better.'

The Left Unity website has resources and guidance for all PCS members who want to maximise the vote. Go to

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Article information

Sat 31 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1853
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