Sunday, 12 May 2013

Is PCS a union for its' activists and not the members?

The recent PCS National Executive Committee elections resulted in the lowest ever turnout in the unions history. With just 9.5% of eligible voters taking part there is a clear message that members are becoming disengaged from the union. Combined with the ever decreasing number of members taking part in the current campaign of industrial action there is a clear danger that the union is becoming ever more irrelevant to the direct interests of the wider membership.

None of the political factions in PCS (including my own) can claim to have any kind of real mandate at the moment to do anything as the main focus of members is getting through the month on their meagre wages, with many members (myself included) not having had a pay rise for five years. The only place where there is any confidence in the ability of PCS to do something positive is in the realm of "Personal Case" work.

The 4themembers group is currently having a discussion about the general situation in PCS and the problems that face 4TM as the main opposition group in the union, and the only group of "mainstream" activists who operate nationally. Michael Hitchen a long term PCS activist wrote that:

Why did we have such a low turnout - partly because the members are ahead of us politically, they have modernised their version of what trade unionism is, a service based "workplace insurance" 21st century form of trade unionism.

The members don't want so many names on a ballot paper only the zealots have the time to read all those dead trees. Neither do they want to go out on strike for a day as an empty gesture.
What do they want?  The reps to tie HR up in knots and come along to meetings when they are in trouble mainly.

Pretty much an accurate summary of PCS members views I would say.

Of course the debate going on in both 4TM and the other factions will be much more wide ranging and will need to continue for the foreseeable future as there are simply no easy answers, no straightforward formulations that will turn the general situation around for the immediate future.

On Friday I wrote about the decision of former PCS Deputy General Secretary Hugh Lanning to stand for the position of General Secretary of Napo, the probation officers union. It occurs to me the the whole debacle of Lannings departure from PCS in a huff raises some serious questions about accountability in PCS.

Exactly how many of us ordinary "grunts" could quit two years ahead of retirement on a whim and get an early payout from the employer? None I hear you say. Exactly! Its' not as if Lanning took an early bath on health grounds otherwise how could he be standing for the leadership of another public sector union?

Lanning had two years to run as DGS, for which he was paid several times the wage of the average member and his Retirement package must also bring in a pretty penny. Why was he allowed to "retire" on the members money, when he clearly was simply looking for another job?

Given that Mark Serwotka has "recommended" him for the post of General Secretary of Napo, I think that we, the dues paying members have a right to query this little arrangement made by the PCS Grandees.

Interestingly there are a couple of motions for PCS Conference to abolish the post of DGS given the financial situation that the union is facing, whilst at the same time praising Lanning for the work he has supposed to have done for us. Given he "prioritised" his overseas activities with the anti trade-union Cuban dictatorship, the equally venal Hugo Chavez regime in Venezuela, not forgetting his numerous trips to the Hamas  terrorist run Gaza Strip, I think I'd strongly disagree with that sentiment.

Members are waiting for another push by the far-left run union in their ill thought strike campaign which will no doubt be central to the comrades contributions at National Conference in sunny Brighton next weekend.

They will be expected to lose money they can ill afford.

Yet at the same time they are paying for the unnecessary retirement of Hugh Lanning. Questions need to be asked and answers need to be forthcoming.

Whilst this is all probably legally sound, it remains morally questionable in my view.

Given that the comrades at the top of PCS like to lecture us about the "socialist" alternative to the "rip off bankers" this reeks of hypocrisy and double standards.

No wonder support for PCS is in decline.

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