PCS Left Unity had an overwhelmingly positive conference in Brighton last week.
We had already enjoyed very successful election results, with members re-electing a Democracy Alliance NEC, with just a handful of casualties, despite the unholy alliance of our opponents from Independent Left and Broad Left Network, joining forces. Whilst those Democracy Alliance candidates not elected will be sorely missed, it is clear that the alliance, formed with the sole aim of removing Left Unity from the leadership of our union, and which barely survived ADC, did not reap the anticipated benefits. There is now much discussion about whether it can survive the upcoming GS/AGS elections, with one Independent Left candidate declaring in advance of these discussions concluding. In contrast, Left Unity have invited nominations from across our membership, and will wait for these to close before declaring our candidates.
The main debate at ADC on Tuesday afternoon, over the way forward for the National Campaign, following passionate contributions on all sides of the argument, and a fair bit of sectarianism from our opponents, saw conference vote convincingly for the Left Unity strategy, as set out in our emergency motion, and reject the defeatism of our opponents. This was an important victory and one which allows the incoming NEC to continue with the strategy that gives us the best opportunity of winning for our members.
In some respects, conference last week crystallised a simple question – what kind of union do we want? The task of building a fighting, democratic union is ongoing, but it is an ambition that can not only be knocked off course but, as we have seen this week, could easily be reversed if some of our opponents came to power.
The Left Unity position on most of the key debates at conference was overwhelmingly successful, with conference rejecting the anti-democratic attempt to run PCS for 5 months without a General Secretary or disenfranchise those branches and activists that could not physically get to Brighton. The BLN were behind both of these moves to subvert the democracy of our union, and in particular, their attempt to restrict the right to vote in the block vote elections to those fortunate enough to be in Brighton, whilst preventing those joining virtually, due to health or caring responsibilities, from taking part, was a cynical manoeuvre.
Both of these assaults on democracy were resoundingly defeated by conference, and saw our opponents become ever more agitated. Heckling and shouting, and intimidating many first-time delegates, who have told us they then felt unable to fully take part in what should have been a positive experience.
It became obvious why the BLN were keen to avoid the results of the Block Vote elections being declared, when the results confirmed that members had not elected a single one of their candidates.
A historic vote was carried on our devolved administrations, resulting in inaugural, policy-making conferences being planned in Scotland and Wales in the autumn, following elections of executive nation committees for the first time. This is ground-breaking for PCS and something to be welcomed, having been widely consulted on, and supported, in our devolved nations, yet another example of democracy in action.
On Equality, conference rejected the NEC motion which attempted to set out a pan-equality agenda, taking forward work on black members’ issues, womens’ issues and disabled members’ issues, as well as LGBT+ issues, in favour of a motion narrowly focused on Proud. The incoming Left Unity led NEC will ensure that this motion is implemented, recognising that the most successful outcome is one where more LGBT+ members participate in the Proud network, making it a far more inclusive part of our union. PCS Left Unity is fully committed to working hard to ensure that this happens.
Wednesday night saw a successful Left Unity rally, where a packed, enthusiastic room heard from Mark Serwotka and Fran Heathcote, alongside a number of excellent contributions from the floor. The focus was very much on the future and the success of the National Campaign. Lots of positive feedback was received afterwards and a long list of new joiners.
Conference is a time when you should come away feeling refreshed and revitalised, and whilst there are always setbacks, we hope that delegates, trainees and observers enjoyed the experience and will be able to take forward the issues agreed into their workplaces, and involve themselves wholeheartedly in working together to win our campaigns.
If you’re not yet a member of Left Unity, please get involved in our campaigns and consider joining us. The future of PCS and our ability to co-ordinate and work with other unions, is dependant on Left Unity growing within our union, pursuing the message of hope and unity that only we bring to PCS members.
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