Socialist Worker

Civil actions

Issue No. 1806

HUNDREDS OF civil servants met last week to defend democracy in their PCS union. Over 300 met in central London on Wednesday of last week, over 120 in Nottingham on Monday of this week and 50 in Bristol. They are protesting against the attempted coup by the discredited general secretary, Barry Reamsbottom, who wants to remove Mark Serwotka, the general secretary elect.

Janice Godrich, PCS president, told the London meeting, 'Mark Serwotka won the general secretary election by a clear majority. Only an open and democratic union can fight for its members.'

'What unites all of us at this meeting is an acceptance of the democracy of the PCS conference and the members' ballot,' said Mark Serwotka. 'If Barry Reamsbottom gets away with this, democracy will mean nothing. Wouldn't it be so much better for the union if this meeting was about fighting privatisation, for national pay, or for better conditions for our members? We have received almost 500 messages of support from members and branches opposing the attacks on our democracy. Many unions have also sent their support. Once we've seen off this coup we will be stronger, and will get on with fighting for all the things members need.'

'Mark Serwtoka won the election,' said Hugh Lanning, assistant general secretary of the PCS, and the man Mark beat in the December 2000 election. 'It was a fair election in which members decided. Our union is at a crossroads between democracy and dictatorship. We must win this campaign for the sake of the union.'

'I'm here to defend the democratically elected general secretary of the PCS,' said Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union. I think it's an absolute disgrace. We will be writing to the TUC general council saying we do not recognise Barry Reamsbottom as the general secretary of the PCS. If Mark Serwotka is not in place on the general council then we'll be asking Reamsbottom to be taken out of the congress.'

'In the next few weeks we have to do everything in our power to raise the issue of democracy in the PCS in every part of the trade union movement,' said campaigning journalist Paul Foot. 'Action is what matters most now.'

Activists went away determined to keep up the pressure on the union's right wing leadership in the run-up to the court case in mid-July which will decide on who runs the PCS union. As Bob Crow said, 'It's a shame we have judges deciding on things when union members have already made their decisions.'

The first meeting of the new national executive last week, instead of discussing the issues vital to members, was another unsuccessful attempt by Reamsbottom and his cronies to control the union. They could not get the two thirds majority they were hoping for. Activists should keep sending messages of support in to Mark and demand a recall conference so members can discuss the attack on democracy.
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DEFEND democracy in the PCS public meetings:

  • SHEFFIELD: Tuesday 2 July, 7pm, Sadacca, The Wicker. Speakers include Mark Serwotka and Derek Simpson (left wing challenger in the AEEU-Amicus election).
  • MANCHESTER: Wednesday 3 July, 5pm, Cross Street Chapel, city centre. Speakers include Mark Serwotka and Sarah Jones (former PCS national vice-president).

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Article information

Sat 29 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1806
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