PCS conference report – Building the movement, winning the future

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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Awe inspiring Amazon picket line in Coventry

100 GMB pickets brought the Amazon plant in Coventry to a halt this morning.

At 6.30am the pickets who had gathered on the footpath swarmed into the road. At first a few cars drove at speed through the line but soon the pickets brought the cars to a halt and the road was ours.

To chants of “What do we want? £15”, “we are not robots” the strikers held the road for over an hour. “The workers united will never be defeated” was less well known but was soon taken up as a chant.

Amazon lorries were trapped in the traffic alongside people heading to work.

While some pickets were blocking the road others were working along the queue talking to the drivers and recruiting to the GMB.

I asked one of the organisers if it was like this every day on the picket line? “Oh yes” he said casually, they take over the road every day.

After the picket we had a march around the Amazon car park. One of their staff attempted to read out a trespass order which includes the line “desist from your nuisance” which amuses the organisers.

While it may be just a strike, this strike is more, it’s more like a rebellion.

Today’s strike was the last of 14 days of strike action. The GMB is growing every day. They are demanding £15 per hour. Although that has not yet been won Amazon felt enough pressure to increase the rate by 50p per hour. People report an improvement in working conditions inside the plant.

The strike is an inspiration. I’ve been at a variety of meetings over the last year or so where Amazon staff have spoken. Their story has changed as they have progressed. It started out with them talking about the pressures in the plant, more recently about their first sit down stoppage in the canteen. Now they talk about how they are organising in the plant and fighting for union recognition.

They have had to overcome many hurdles. There are people from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe in the plant, with differing first languages. But on the picket line this is a strength. Everyone driving in knew someone on the picket line and we heard discussions in a variety of languages.

Amazon is one of the wealthiest organisations in the world, skilled at tax evasion and not recognising unions. Jeff Bezos can afford to join the rich boys space race. When the GMB win recognition in Coventry it will open the door to every plant in the country, and the GMB is already organising in a number of them.

As trade unionists we should celebrate the work being done to unionise Amazon and lend them all the support we can.

Pete Jackson

Pete is standing for the NEC on the Democracy Alliance slate. The full slate can be found here -> https://pcsleftunity.org/democracy-alliance-nec-nominees-2023/

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Building Solidarity, Building Unity

As we escalate our Strike Campaign  and undergo re-ballloting, the determination of our members to Fight for Fair Pay, Save Jobs, Keep our compensation Scheme & for thePension payment correction, is unwavering. 

Last month I was out on 15th March with PCS HMRC Merseyside comrades, after HMRC beat the ballot threshold, and spent some time showing solidarity with Bootle Jobcentre & HSE Bootle. Afterwards I joined comrades from UCU, BMA & PCS for a joint rally in Liverpool, where I was also a speaker. Enthusiasm to keep fighting had not weakened from the amazing February 1st all- out strike and rally in Liverpool, which I stewarded after showing solidarity with PCS Pickets at West Derby & Everton Jobcentres, Liverpool Home Office, Liverpool Passport Office & Liverpool DBS, as well as UCU Liverpool School of Tropical  Medicine – Liverpool University, Liverpool John Moores University  & ASLEF. 

I have continued to show support and solidarity for our PCS pickets including Toxteth Jobcentre which is facing closure and supporting the Anti Closure campaign with Sarah Morton, Martin Cavanagh & Angela Grant. 

I was also recently out in Solidarity with RMT, and spoke at their rally on 18th March, which also included UN Anti-Racism Day. 

On Monday, I was out at the Liverpool Passport Office again,  as they started day 1 of their 5 week targeted strike. The picket got great support from the public and had a visit from Ian Byrne MP for West Derby, as well as PCS ARMS NW and the hard working PCS NW staff. 
On Thursday I spoke at the University of Liverpool UCU branch meeting about the PCS Dispute.

Our campaigns have much in common and UCU and PCS have been working together with other unions such as RMT, Unison, RCN, Unite, CWU,  BFAWU, NEU  and others with the Liverpool Trades Council under the banner of Liverpool Strike Solidarity Network. This has included having city centre stalls in the summer to encourage sign up to join unions, collections for strike funds and doing joint rallies and events, and working with relevant groups to protect the NHS, Anti Racism activities and Solidarity across pickets for the various ongoing disputes. 
The Liverpool University UCU branch passed on their Solidarity at the meeting, and they and others will  be showing us support on our PCS Walk Out, when we are all out on 28th April. The branch also pledged a £1,000 donation to our strike fund! Fantastic Solidarity. 

This month, we have seen thousands of members at AA grade get an automatic uplift to match the new National minimum wage NMW – some workers who administer the NMW have had to have a raise, whilst others delivering Universal Credit have to claim it themselves. 

The strategy of targeted strikes is proving to the Government our true worth, and the escalated action is enabling this to ramp up more. The next PCS Walk Out, on 28th April, will show them that our demands remain widely supported across all groups who smashed the threshold & we have the public and other unions on our side. 

Don’t forget to post your ballot paper back if your group is in the re-ballot. We have seen other unions winning their re-ballots with even better turnouts and mandates – as we are all determined to fight the draconian terms and conditions the government are trying to force on to all of us working for the public, delivering vital services for the most vulnerable and the for benefit of our national economy.

 Inflation is rising and so are we. 


Tracey Hylton

Tracey is standing for re-election to the PCS NEC as part of the Democratic Alliance slate. Click here to see the full Democratic Alliance slate.

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