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Mark Serwotka: Unions must step up the fight

This article is over 13 years, 3 months old
PCS civil service workers’ union secretary Mark Serwotka spoke to Socialist Worker after the demonstration last Saturday
Issue 2245

‘Saturday was extraordinarily uplifting and inspirational. I marched with the PCS contingent and took two hours to get from Waterloo Bridge to Big Ben.

We think we had about 20,000 PCS members on the march. What was clear to me from the response to my speech at the final rally was that calls for joint action and taxing the rich caught the mood.

Just seeing hundreds of thousands of people cheering action and an alternative to cuts was invigorating.

It took an awful lot of arguing to even get this march, and many of us wanted it earlier. Saturday was proof that people are looking for a lead.

I hope it goes some way to tackling the caution that exists among many on the TUC general council about how far and how quickly you can go.

If the momentum is lost there’s always the fear that the mood can dissipate and that we’ll miss our moment.

We’ve got to move quickly. There will be a meeting of all the public sector unions at the TUC on Wednesday, which in part has been called to discuss coordinated industrial action over pensions.

The PCS will go to that meeting arguing strongly that we need to move to ballots as soon as we can. We are hoping to convince as many unions as possible to go along with that.

But we are also having discussions with some of the teaching unions.

We think that the UCU and the NUT unions especially are up for action along the lines of the timetable we’re envisaging.

That is to get conference mandates in April and May and balloting for action in June.

We have a PCS executive meeting in early April and the recommendations that will go to that are being finalised now.

They will ensure the ballot we propose allows for a variety of different types of action, including national strikes with other unions.

They will also allow us to respond quickly in all of the places our members work.

The ballot we’re planning should combine the questions of pay, pensions and cuts in jobs to get us the maximum flexibility to take action where members support it.

The big picture is that we move swiftly from Saturday to try and engage on major national action.

I believe we should work with all those who want to oppose the cuts but we’ve got to say we oppose them all.

People seem to understand that if you don’t do this then the question becomes: which cuts do you accept.

It was very good that Ed Miliband came to the rally.

But we can’t be sucked into saying that some cuts are acceptable and others aren’t.

I’m hoping in May that the Tories and the Lib Dems get annihilated in the elections.

However, elections are not going to stop the onslaught of cuts.

We’ve got to build an alliance of trade unionists and campaigners that is going to defend all our services.’


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