Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Renewed speculation about a possible PCS/Unite merger
A motion was passed at PCS Conference which looked at the very least to further developing talks with the Unite union about both joint working and a possible merger should the situation be right. For a while this has been on the "back burner", in part due to the foolish decision of leading PCS members in backing Len McCluskey's Trotskyist opponent, Jerry Hicks (see here). However Hicks has managed to fall foul of most of the left in Unite with his somewhat belated foolish antics over the election results as widely reported.
The PCS union is in the middle of both a serious political and financial crisis. Only recently the National Executive had to admit that over 4,000 members had been lost. What they failed to tell members was that a whole Department has broken away to form a new union. That information is still being withheld from the wider membership. The reason? They don't want to admit to their blunders in dealing with the issues that led to the split in PCS. I can tell you now Serwotka's actions were central to their departure and people wonder why I have no confidence in the "Great leader".
Nevertheless with declining membership and the all most total loss of clout, PCS and in particular the activist caste (the Socialist Party and their fellow travellers in Left Unity) are looking long term to try and regain ground through uniting with another "left" union.
Trouble is there are conflicting agendas here. McCluskey and his supporters are very fixated on the Labour Party as the recent events in Grangemouth have shown. The PCS leadership on the other hand is obsessed with building an alternative to the Labour Party with the tiny and electorally irrelevant Trade Union and Socialist Coalition.
At the same time the left in Unite has split with those opposed to working with the Socialist Workers Party (described as "rape apologists" by many) will find working with the current PCS Left Unity group problematical since it contains err... the SWP.
At a PCS meeting in Glasgow last week NEC member Derek Thompson made it clear that that talks with Unite are "on-going" but did emphasise that there were no firm "options" at present. Most PCS activists present were reportedly very much in favour of a merger during the ensuing debate. However sources from Unite seem to suggest that this is very much on the cards.
If such a merger went ahead the largest of the Civil Service unions would end up subsumed in a much larger and more general body. For members this would be a disaster as there is a need for a distinctive trade union voice for civil servants, Trouble is, with the likes of Serwotka and the Socialist Party in charge that voice has been muted prematurely as nobody seems to listen to PCS any more.
That includes it's own members as one PCS member, Dorothy wrote in response to an e-mail I issued last week:
I like the way you say it as it is, keep up the good work. A few people have said to me" what's the use of the union they never do anything" they are only staying in the union in case they need help at work.
She is not alone, Audrey from another Branch writes:
I too lack confidence in the PCS as is currently. I would further declare that were it not for your personal union work in particular, I would consider withdrawing my membership as I feel PCS is no longer willing or able to represent me. I do not want to be affiliated to a union that is a political party.
Please return to Howie's Corner on Sunday night for an announcement. (Though I hope most of you will return before then!)