THERE WAS jubilation outside the High Court in London last week at news of the legal victory of civil servants' union leader Mark Serwotka. He had finally won his battle to take up the position of general secretary of the PCS union. A high court judge confirmed that his election in November 2000 was valid, and that the coup attempt by right wing former general secretary Barry Reamsbottom was illegal.
Mark Serwotka stood for election as a socialist. 'I am now legally and democratically the general secretary of the PCS,' he told a packed victory rally on Wednesday of last week. Over 40,000 members elected Mark. A thousand members confirmed that decision at this year's PCS conference. But Reamsbottom was determined to hang on to power.
When his misnamed 'Moderate' supporters gained a majority on the PCS national executive in May this year he launched a coup attempt, saying Mark's election was 'unlawful'. This provoked uproar in the union among ordinary members which stopped Reamsbottom in his tracks.
It also no doubt played on the judge's mind last week. 'This is a knockout victory,' said Mark Serwotka. 'On every aspect of the case the judge found for us.'
The judge ruled that Reamsbottom stopped being general secretary of the PCS on 31 May and that Mark Serwotka was validly elected. He ruled that the national executive committee meeting which tried to push the coup through had 'no effect'. He also found that the legal agreement Reamsbottom signed saying he would leave the PCS in June was valid.
He ruled that Reamsbottom was no longer a member of the union. This severely restricts his ability to appeal against the decision. Reamsbottom's final humiliation is a blow for Tony Blair. He was one of the key trade union figures who pushed the idea of 'partnership' with the bosses and sat on any signs of struggle. Mark Serwotka supports the Socialist Alliance and opposes Bush and Blair's war drive.
Civil servants overwhelmingly backed Mark because he stands for a fight against low pay and privatisation. Mark's victory comes after Derek Simpson beat Sir Ken Jackson, Tony Blair's biggest union ally, in the Amicus-AEEU general secretary election. That followed the victory of several left wingers in union elections over the last two years.
According to the Guardian newspaper last week Mark Serwotka has been placed on Blair's 'awkward squad' of union leaders who it isn't worth speaking to as they are 'implacably hostile' to New Labour.