THE PCS civil servants' union conference began as Socialist Worker went to press. The union has been moving to the left since the election of socialist Mark Serwotka as general secretary in December 2000. This trend is now becoming even clearer.
Mark received a brilliant response as he addressed the conference. 'I remain committed today to the platform I put forward in my election,' he said. 'I'm proud to stand up for public sector workers. We need to be more prepared than ever to oppose privatisation under this government. We have to make sure we work with other public sector unions over this. The Defra [formerly the Ministry of Agriculture] dispute shows strike action can win pay increases. Trade unionism is about internationalism. We have to heed the warning from France and the election of three BNP councillors in the local elections.'
The right wing majority on the national executive committee are in confusion, despite their recent victory in the national executive elections. They tried to gag Mark Serwotka last year to stop him speaking out against the war on Afghanistan.
The conference overwhelmingly passed a motion supporting Mark, and other elected union officials' right to speak out on this and other issues. Phil Pardoe from inner London told the conference, 'We have to give a clear signal to the incoming national executive committee that they cannot gag any member of this trade union.'
The conference also voted to affiliate to the Campaign to Repeal the Anti Trade Union Laws and the Colombia Solidarity Campaign. The sectional conferences at the weekend came to life when the union's right wing tried to pass a motion censuring union leaders for organising united strike ballots.
One right winger even admitted in the conference hall to scabbing on the dispute. Delegates rallied against the right wing of the union, who undermined the dispute, and threw the motion out.