An important meeting of PSC civil service workers’ union branch representatives took place in Leeds on Friday of last week.
It was in response to the recommendation by the group executive committee of PCS in the department for work and pensions (DWP) to recommend acceptance of an offer from management to settle the long running dispute over attacks on jobs, working conditions and services.
Around 85 out of 114 branches sent reps to debate if the recommendation should be put to the membership in a ballot.
Group secretary Keith Wylie reported to the meeting that there was “no prospect” of further concessions although he conceded that the deal did not “go as far as we wanted, or as far as the membership deserve”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka then addressed the meeting and emphasised the decision by the national executive committee to “launch a concerted national campaign” in “confrontation with government policy”.
This would take place later in the year demanding a no compulsory redundancy agreement for civil service workers, an end to privatisation, a deal on pensions and a move toward the restoration of national pay bargaining.
In the debate that followed 50 branches spoke in favour of acceptance and 32 against. Despite the recommendation of the general secretary there was plenty of dissent.
Steve Bramhill of Liverpool Branch argued that accepting the offer was “going to risk scuppering national action” later in the year. Kate Douglas from Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire branch pointed out that “not one of our original demands have been met”.
Despite the dissent, the meeting voted by 58 votes to 23 to recommend acceptance of the offer from management in a membership ballot. The ballot however will be suspended if DWP management persist in their attempts to victimise PCS activists Darren Smith and Kate Byles.
The danger is that with a ballot on action across the civil service planned for later in the year, a vote to end the dispute in DWP will demobilise members in the biggest government department and make that action harder to win. Activists should argue strongly for a no vote.
About 2,500 PCS union members working for the Ministry of Defence in the Defence Logistics Organisation are being balloted on industrial action in a dispute about job losses and relocation.