Thursday, 11 April 2013

Has the time come to end the PCS dispute?

Following the recent one and a half days strikes in the civil service my PCS Branch Executive Committee met and discussed the general situation. Turnout had been low and enthusiasm virtually non-existent. There was a general feeling that this dispute was going nowhere and it was certainly clear that even the reps themselves were taking part only out of "loyalty" to the union as a concept rather than any misplaced belief in the current leadership around Mark Serwotka.

The one obvious question asked was were was this dispute going and of immediate concern what else was being proposed. As a Branch Secretary I had received no notification of any further dates and there was (and still is) nothing on the unions website to elucidate anyone further.

Given yesterdays report of the uproar caused by Mark Serwotka's seemingly "off the cuff" announcement on Sky TV of a "week of rolling strikes" without consultation you would think that the "comrades" would have learnt at the very least to tell local PCS reps of their plans.

No such luck.

Last night the latest issue of The Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party) published an article by John McInally (a PCS Vice President and leading SP hack) in which he outlined what DWP members would be expected to do next:

As well as the action in the Home Office there will be a series of group actions. It is possible there will be action as part of a 'Welfare Week' at the end of April around the question of the now dysfunctional Universal Credit system.
I am fed up of finding out from sources other than my own union what plans are being made on members behalf of the charlatans in organisations like  the Socialist Party before we are officially told. 

My other concern is that the leadership seem to be swallowing their own propaganda about the level of participation in the dispute. Despite all the claims made by McInally, the turnout was well under half the membership, with some figures now circulating that it could be as few as around 50,000 or about one in five of the membership. Certainly the half-day strike saw fewer members take part.

The comrades resort to publishing fine words from their own supporters in their papers, but substituting  
reality for wishful thinking is not a way to build a dispute, let alone keeping the union going in what is proving to be a very difficult time.

The one thing all the members of my Branch Executive agree on is that we need a union, but we need one that is more politically and tactically adept in the current political climate. There is a view, also held by swathes of members in our branch and beyond that this particular dispute is not for us, but for the direct political interests of the Socialist Party and their allies.

McInally's article in The Socialist simply confirms our worst fears.

The reason for this is the continued dream amongst the hallowed ranks of the comrades for a "General Strike". The Socialist writes:
Mark Serwotka told Sky News: "We are definitely having a discussion about generalised strike action.
"More imminently than that we are having the beginnings of a much more detailed discussion between unions who have real industrial issues in front of them now about co-ordinating their efforts."
The National Shop Stewards Network (a Socialist Party front organisation-ed) has called on trade unionists to lobby the general council meeting, to demand that the TUC name the date for a 24-hour general strike.
and there's more:

PCS members have just concluded the second strike of their national action programme, with HMRC workers ending their half-day strike and walking into work when Thatcher's death was announced! They can't be left to fight alone.

The TUC must name the day for a 24-hour general strike.

The conditions for  such a strike do not exist. Further there is the obvious question what next? Should the TUC call a one day revolution? A laughable strategy all round.

With PCS in continuing disarray (today's emergency telekit in the Home Office resulted in a three word response from my informant - "A total shambles!") and support dropping as further action is proposed the time has come for the union to seriously consider whether this dispute should actually continue.

There are three elements to the dispute - Pensions (which frankly is now a dead issue), Conditions of Service (which will affect newcomers rather than existing members) and Pay. The Government is not going to break its' pay freeze and all members are doing are throwing good money after bad. 

Overall the dispute has been badly thought out, executed and delivered. Time to end it not escalate it!

Time for reps to re-group, rethink and get rid of the Socialist Party and their allies in the misnamed Democracy Alliance.

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