Monday, 24 March 2014

PCS - Unite merger talks pressing ahead

The news that the main civil service union the PCS is pressing ahead with merger talks should come as no surprise since it hasn’t exactly been a secret since a resolution was passed at last years conference to set the scene for exploratory talks. What does come as a wee bit of a surprise is how advanced the talks are, or at least have been. Both the PCS and Unite National Executive Committees have agreed to further talks which have been taking place over the last couple of months.

PCS General Secretary and his Socialist Party side-kick, Chris Baugh did meet with Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey back in January and it has been reported that there are “no fundamental obstacles to talks on the merger. However the recent revelations on the PCS staff pension scheme were probably not known to Unite back then and have only come to light this month (see here).

Further talks have involved not just Serwotka and a full timer, but also John McInally one the PCS Vice Presidents & the Socialist Party’s “fixer” insider the union. Unites representatives included Tony Woodhouse and Martin Mayer from the Unite EC along with two full timers from McCluskeys Office. Talks centred on “creating a powerful new union” capable of “acting across the public and private sectors”. Serwotka has given a commitment that any merger talks would be conducted in an “open and transparent manner” which I am sure members will be looking forward to with baited breath.

Since Unite already contains a section covering the MOD and other Government Departments it is proposed that PCS (probably as a whole) would transfer into this sector. Apparently “public sector”, though not civil service members would represent one quarter of Unites membership. Unite would also become the largest union in the TUC, though Unison would remain the largest public sector union. Not sure why a merger with them was not considered other than for the self-centred political interests of the Socialist Party who threw their weight behind fellow Trotskyist Jerry Hicks in the recent Unite General Secretary election. Unison of course frown on the Socialist Party (I like them already!) and are less tolerant of the mad militants than is the Marxist McCluskey.

The politics of the merger face one other obstacle. Unite is affiliated to the Labour Party, and despite the recent constitutional changes implemented by Ed Miliband, Unite remains more than committed to Labour. PCS on the other hand, has the sectarian policy of “standing & supporting” candidates in elections, which the like of Serwotka and McInally hope will one day lead to the union backing the tiny and totally misnamed Trade Union & Socialist Coalition. Whether the TUSC survives Bob Crow is a matter for speculation as the power struggle for the leadership of the RMT remains in its early stages.

Socialist Party logo

What Serwotka and the Socialist Party seek is for Unite to have a separate “political fund” for “those who want it”, i.e. themselves. Such a proposal clashes with Unites main political aim being to back the return of a Labour Government and would lead to factional strife, with the Trotskyists using such a fund to undermine Labour, and seek to take over Unite itself. 

More is to come on the merger proposals and members will have to consider the issues involved, including whether this is really the best way forward or just another political manoeuvre based on the narrow political interests of the Militant ruling clique in PCS.

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