Over 100 members of Left Unity, the broad left within the PCS civil service workers’ union, met in Manchester last Saturday for its annual conference.
This is a crucial time for the PCS with members in the magistrate’s courts balloting for action over pay, an ongoing pay dispute within Defra, and with 90,000 workers in the Department for Work and Pensions balloting for strikes over job cuts, poor services and other issues.
Delegates heard that Left Unity had grown over the last year. The left leadership of the PCS had called significantly more strikes than other unions.
The recent decision by the left-led PCS national executive to sign up to the framework agreement with the government on pensions led to the most heated debate for years.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS and Left Unity member, used his opening speech to passionately defend the pensions deal. A majority of Left Unity delegates present agreed that the leadership had secured the best deal possible, but a number opposed the deal.
Some delegates pointed out that the Natfhe lecturers’ union national executive had rejected the deal.
The deal creates a two tier workforce and accepts the right wing myth that current pensions are too generous and are unsustainable.
The various disputes emerging within the civil service require a united response. Job cuts, privatisation, and pay disparity affect the entire public sector.
The government and bosses response to the Turner report on pensions shows that the pensions deal itself is under threat as the bosses sense weakness on our side. A left-led PCS is well placed to launch a campaign alongside other public sector unions in defence of pension rights for all.