Debates over the next steps in a pay fight in the civil service ran through the PCS union’s conferences this week.
Delegates discussed the best strategy to beat the 1 percent civil service pay cap following a recent national strike ballot.
PCS members voted by 79 percent for strikes demanding a 10 percent pay rise. But the ballot failed narrowly to meet the 50 percent turnout threshold demanded by Tory anti-union laws.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said another national ballot may not be “far away”.
But there is a debate over whether the union should hold a national ballot, or try “disaggregated ballots” instead.
Disaggregated ballots would mean each departmental section of the PCS voting separately.
Delegates to the PCS’s national conference were set to debate this on Tuesday as Socialist Worker went to press.
Debates at the conferences for the DWP and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) groups foreshadowed it.
Delegates to the HMRC conference passed motions raising the prospect of strikes in the group, as well as a motion committing to remaining in the national campaign.
A speaker during the discussion from East Kilbride branch suggested that if there had been a separate HMRC ballot, “We could have been have been taking action.” Earlier in the discussion Marianne Owens from the group executive committee said, “The best way to break the civil service-wide pay cap is to take civil service-wide action to ensure that no area is left behind.
“We believed in the run-up to this that if we were disaggregated we wouldn’t be able to play a part in the national campaign.”
Socialist Worker supporters argued that that the best strategy is to keep campaigning for a national pay strike.
Building rank and file organisation of activists in the workplace can win a ballot and breach the threshold.
A fringe meeting held by general secretary Mark Serwotka gave evidence to back this up. Breakdowns of the ballot results showed that 60 percent of people who had voted had personal contact with PCS reps—and that contact with reps produced a higher turnout.
Outsourced workers at two government departments struck on Tuesday.
Members of the PCS at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) were out.
Workers including cleaners and porters at the FCO are fighting outsourcer Interserve over redundancies, changes to pay dates, and attacks on holiday pay. They struck on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Meanwhile cleaners and caterers at BEIS were set to strike for four days to demand the London Living wage from bosses at outsourcers ISS and Aramark.
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