A great election result, now let’s focus on continuing to build PCS

Positive Campaigning

Thank you to everyone who voted to elect a Democracy Alliance National Executive Committee. The fantastic result last week, which saw the election of the biggest Democracy Alliance majority in years, coupled with excellent results for Left Unity in the biggest groups, was a testament to the hard work carried out over the last period, alongside a positive campaign, in contrast to the negative campaigning and videos of some of our opponents.

Members have obviously responded well to that, and returned an excellent result for Left Unity members and supporters.

As always, the turnout could be better, and the review that PCS is undertaking will obviously include a focus on how we can increase participation, but the result is a vindication of all the hard work our comrades have put into defending members and keeping them safe, and the campaigning around issues that has taken place.

Refreshing the NEC

Electing 14 new members to the National Executive, and having a strong, enthusiastic team of activists from across the union, allows us to focus on the big challenges ahead, without unnecessary distractions, and to continue to build PCS from a position of strength.

It is important that the incoming NEC work together to provide the strong, determined leadership that our members need and deserve.

Our priority over the past 12 months or more, has been to do everything we possibly could to keep our members safe throughout the pandemic. We have fought as never before because, doing everything possible was, in these circumstances, quite literally a matter of life and death.

This leadership knew PCS had to shift its approach in response to the pandemic and the lockdown. In adopting a digital approach at top speed, and with little margin for error, we managed to develop communications with members and activists to an unprecedented level of engagement. And that communication has been two-way – listening to members’ fears, concerns and needs and then responding with strategies focused on the requirements and demands appropriate to each individual area and workplaces.

A Campaigning Union

Our Democracy Alliance NEC, as it has done in the twenty-years it has led PCS, backed every campaign, backed every call for action and backed every group of members fighting back.

Our standing within the trade union movement is at an all-time high, as evidenced in the support and solidarity for our disputes in both DVLA and the DWP from across the movement. PCS are widely recognised as being at the forefront of campaigning on our members’ issues.

Campaigning, like Equality, is at the very heart of our union. More members, more reps, more advocates, a fightback on pay, the successful defence of the CSCS in the courts, and a campaign that is growing on pensions.

We heard at our recent election rally from speakers in two of our key campaigns, who told us what a difference these campaigns have made to their members and their branches.

How they have led to a victory in OCS, and a changed culture amongst members at DVLA Swansea, in our ongoing campaign there. And that is the reality check that’s needed.

This leadership does not organise the defence of our members interests on the basis of abstract “theories” – particularly from “critics” with little or no experience of leading campaigns themselves, or from meaningless slogans that amount to nothing and translate into mere words, not actions.

We organise on the basis of long experience, leading fightbacks against what has seemed like never-ending attacks from a succession of governments, determined to destroy the Civil Service as a matter of ideology. We don’t always win in the face of such an assault – but we always fight to win.

At the centre of our approach is that we take members with us. We don’t lecture them about what they should do or think, as has been seen recently in the theoretical assertion from a losing presidential candidate, that members delivering 8 days of strike action so far are ‘too timid’ or ‘their demands aren’t bold enough’. We listen to members and their reps, we work with them. We decide jointly what needs to be done and we stand with them through thick and thin, in victory, or when there are setbacks.

What we will never do is lie to them or pretend there are easy options. We have absolute loyalty to our members and will defend them always. We will never mislead them and take them for granted, nor will we ever view them as nothing more than a stepping-stone to winning positions, influence or power. We have built PCS into a democratic, member-led union, and we fight with all our strength to keep it that way.

This weekend has seen demonstrations in defence of Palestine and over the next week, there will be events to commemorate the racist murder of George Floyd. It is important that PCS is at the forefront of these important campaigns and that we continue to fight for a better, fairer society.

A Democratic Virtual Conference

We, like the rest of the trade union movement, have had to move to a virtual conference, something that has been challenged and rubbished by some at every stage because ‘It’s not like Brighton’, but we are attempting to hold the most democratic process in the movement, maximising engagement from more reps and members, on a level we could never pull off if ADC was in Brighton, and taking forward bold policies on all of our key issues. Ensuring that we build a union that adapts to the changes in circumstances, but is strong, well organised and fit for the future.

Early indications are that attendance from many branches, some who haven’t sent anyone to ADC for years, will be increased massively. Feedback from those who have attended special virtual conference training sessions, is that reps and activists are excited about the opportunity to be part of something that they couldn’t necessarily have attended if it had been physical. Some branches report registering upwards of 30 delegates.

Working together we can make this event a success, and cut across the negativity that is being generated, so please study the motions, put forward speakers in the debates, and encourage as many reps as possible to be delegates. Let’s work together to make it a success.

Tough times ahead

The period ahead is going to be really tough, there’s no doubt about that. In fact, it is likely to be the toughest period we have ever faced.

Johnson’s Tory government will insist the cost of the pandemic must be borne, not by the millionaires and billionaires to whom he has been channelling countless billions of our public money in the form of government contracts, but by us, public sector workers.

Their main target will once again be the public sector, with the Civil Service at the top of their agenda. Austerity has never ended, or even been paused – It continues full throttle, however they want to spin or re-brand it.

This Tory agenda of continued Austerity is one that must be challenged on every front – Pay, Pensions, Jobs, Conditions. We have elected a leadership in this union that is not just experienced but committed to working for members.

Committed to fighting to defend what we have, but also committed to fighting for what we need. An end to privatisation and outsourcing, campaigning for fair and equitable pay, decent pensions, good terms and conditions, proper staffing and resources and fully trained staff to deliver the vital services into our communities, and so much more. None of which can be attempted, let alone achieved, on the basis of division.

The world of work is changed forever, and PCS needs to be at the forefront of the campaign to defend our members’ interests in all of that.

The newly elected NEC reflect the real diversity of PCS. Workers, immersed in representing their members, and members’ issues, from across the whole gamut of PCS membership.

Left Unity has members’ interests at its heart, we work as a team and deliver on our promises. We have a history of working in cooperation with reps and branches, something that we pledge to continue.

Yes, we face tremendous challenges. Johnson has an 80-seat majority, our country is being looted and our services are under unremitting assault.

We need to hold onto the belief though that, in fighting to build the greatest possible unity in our own union, and across the movement, we can challenge and defeat those who are making the lives of our members and class a misery. That is the reason many of us got involved in the first place, and in the face of all sorts of distractions, we shouldn’t forget that.

Building a stronger, more united PCS

Thanks to everyone for your hard work in the recent period, at branch, group and national level. Showing what can be achieved when activists campaign together.

That must remain our goal, the biggest, most coordinated fightback, strengthening and building PCS, and focusing on issues that unite us, not creating, or promoting, division.

We want all activists to be involved in our campaigns. So, if you have ideas, please get involved and be part of the conversation to take PCS forward in the strongest, most united way.

We hope Left Unity members are finding the new website, and focus on communications, helpful. The Left Unity National Committee have worked hard to ensure that, following a difficult period, our communications and materials, are helpful and timely. If you have ideas about comms, again, we want to hear from you.

Developing virtual technology gives us the opportunity to engage better and allows more people to participate, recognising it also has limitations. Left Unity areas are encouraged to meet regularly, not just at election time, to discuss how we can build campaigns at a local level, and we thank all convenors for the role that you’ve played in that.

Thanks for everything that you do, both in PCS and within Left Unity. Let’s work together to build the biggest strongest and most united campaigns possible. The recent election result allows us to focus on that, without distraction. Let’s build on that with renewed enthusiasm.

Fran Heathcote – PCS President and Left Unity Organiser

On behalf of the Left Unity National Committee

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