Left Unity Chair, Lorna Merry, welcomed delegates to the second online Conference, with many important issues of policy to address, under the broad headings of Coronavirus, National Campaign, Equality and Other motions. The conference was well-attended, with lots of contributions and interventions, and the mood was positive and determined.
The conference heard from Secretary, John Jamieson, who reported the work over the last year, indicating that the continuing restrictions in operation because of the Coronavirus pandemic meant that many of the ways we had organised, including elections, ADC and LUNC meetings, had changed with more work orientated around digital media in order to reach larger numbers of members. Whilst welcoming the success of the 2021 PCS elections, he warned against any complacency as this is likely to be a very tough period ahead, where Left Unity members need to be prepared to stand together.
Our Treasurer, Mark Baker, provided a healthy financial report which taken alongside Organiser, Fran Heathcote’s report, indicated the crucial role Left Unity plays within PCS and its campaigns, and the need for continued efforts to build Left Unity to ensure that we are best-placed to continue to provide strong leadership at every level within PCS.
Martin Cavanagh reported on the work of the LU NEC caucus. Identifying specific campaigning work on the NEC, backing members on Health & Safety in relation to Covid and continuing to build for a National Campaign, where we can ensure that we are in the strongest position to win a statutory ballot for industrial action.
The conference heard from guest speaker, Mark Serwotka, who addressed the Conference in a personal capacity and gave a rousing speech outlining the challenges that face PCS and the need to strain every sinew in order to be able to deliver on our national campaign aims.
A number of motions on the agenda correctly focused on COVID, and the need to keep our members safe, covering Health & Safety, particularly proposing safeguards on the effects of Long-Covid, called for Long-Covid to be designated as a disability and for ALL Covid sick absences to be classed as a notifiable disease. Motions also called for improvements to sick pay and with the increase in home and hybrid working for the NEC to set out a framework policy for homeworking, including the fundamental right to disconnect.
The debate around the National Campaign focused on organising to ensure we will win a ballot for national industrial action over Pay and Pensions to “put ourselves in the strongest position to mount action capable of taking on, and defeating, this government.”
Equalities motions covered issues of neurodiversity and Stonewall, where several motions were remitted to the LUNC to take up in the period ahead.
Amongst “Other Motions” the conference unanimously agreed the continuation of a joint slate for the NEC with the PCS Democrats and also considerable environmental work to be undertaken post COP26.
In closing, Lorna, on behalf of the Left Unity National Committee, thanked all Left Unity members for their continued work and solidarity in what has been a difficult period for PCS, and looked forward to working together in 2022 to ensure that Left Unity remains strong and united, and to ensure that PCS continues to benefit from strong, well-organised leadership that delivers for our members.