HUNDREDS OF activists in the PCS civil servants' union were gathering in Brighton for our union conference this week. The conference takes place at an extremely important time for the union.
Members in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are locked in a bitter dispute with management over pay and a discriminatory appraisal system. The DWP group conference was meeting on Monday and Tuesday of this week to decide further strike action.
The left recently won another landslide victory in the national executive elections. This gives us a mandate for a second year. New Labour is forging ahead with privatisation, driving down pay and pushing through job cuts in the civil service.
The union is in a much better position to fight that than two years ago. The election reflected people's anger at New Labour over issues like the war in Iraq and pensions.
Because the union has been fighting back over pay the membership has grown. People want a union that stands up for them. We need to take the opportunity to challenge these attacks.
We need to step up the pressure across the board to boost the pay campaign and fight job cuts. The union needs a strong rank and file organisation. This was illustrated by the walkouts against the suspension of union members in the DWP for refusing to go along with the appraisal system. The union needs to pull this anger together and go forward.
In another sign of the left wing mood in the union there was a landslide win for the left in the DWP group executive elections last week. The left now holds all but two of the positions on the committee which runs the union in the department.
Socialist Worker supporters Martin John and Phil Pardoe were elected onto the executive. Martin John is now a vice-president of the DWP group executive, while Phil Pardoe was re-elected to the executive in fifth place.
Martin John, who is also a member of the national executive, says, 'This is a vote of determination to carry on the fight. The task for the DWP group conference is to stop dithering and call further strike action. 'The new appraisal system is under siege from a membership revolt. There are signals that management are going to change it. Whether that is on the union's terms is up to the union's action. The members are up for more action. There is no excuse for not calling more.'