The PCS civil service workers’ union held a highly successful conference in Brighton last week.
The union leadership and conference delegates made it clear that they are willing to take on New Labour over attacks on jobs or pensions.
General secretary Mark Serwotka opened the conference by saying that the union had increased its membership to 324,000 this year — an increase of 20 percent in five years.
This is testimony to the union fighting over low pay, job cuts and pension attacks over that time.
The government wants to slash 104,000 jobs in the civil service, which over 200,000 PCS members struck against on 5 November last year.
While the union is growing it is facing many challenges in the near future, including the likely return of the pensions issue that the government kicked into the long grass before the election.
Mark Serwotka said, “We were right to engage the government and demand the right to retain the final salary pension scheme and the right to retire at 60 for those who wish to.
“But if it this was just a pre-election ploy by the government we will inevitably have to take strike action over pensions. The next time we will see five million public sector workers uniting together.”
The conference overwhelmingly voted to sharpen up the union’s position on pensions.
It called for unity with other trade unions, building alliances with public sector unions across towns and cities.
The motion passed stated that no one union should agree to something without the other unions getting it as well.
A number of other attacks are also taking place. Many departments are in dispute with their management over pay, attacks on union officials, privatisation, job cuts and other issues.
The union has recently approved a ballot for strike action in the Department for Work and Pensions in London over staffing issues.
The union took progressive positions on a number of international and social issues.
PCS has long been affiliated to the Stop the War Coalition and last week voted to call for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
A new delegate who had never spoken before moved the motion.
In her summing-up she quoted British refusenik soldier George Solomou to win support for the motion.
And for the first time the union has taken a position in favour of a woman’s right to choose.