Monday, 5 January 2015

PCS: A failed union

PCS Reps returning to work today will have received the latest missive from Mark Serwotka and Janice Godrich outlining their "bold decisions" to ensure the "financial security" and future of the union. This is a reference to the December National Executive Committee meeting which cancelled the internal elections, authorised the sale of Falcon Road and announced staff cuts.

The circular also says there will be further cuts authorised by the January NEC.

The NEC didn't cut the size of conference so that their decisions could be debated amongst the activists which the leadership think they can win over, since a lot of "ordinary" reps are no longer able to attend in their own time and only the hardcore will turn up.

Meanwhile PCS HQ has been purchased though due to "commercial confidence" we cannot be told which developer has bought the "family silver" until the papers are formally signed. 

Then we will be told. The leadership are going to be "open" about this according to one NEC member.

Makes a change.

When Serwotka talks about "bold" measures the word "panic" should be substituted. They are having trouble getting members to sign up by Direct Debit. A lot of groups showed low levels of sign up according to the figures I saw at the end of November. They haven't improved that much despite the "revelation" of a "conspiracy" by management against the union in the HMRC. Still only one in five or so signed up and a new union to compete with in three or four weeks time.

Not looking good.

From talking to people around the country there is a clear level of resistance to re-signing up to PCS. A lot of members seem content to allow the subs to simply end without causing any fuss. I am still confused by the bizarre feedback from "some reps" that switching to DD is an "equality issue affecting ethnic minority members. Given our pay goes into bank accounts I really cannot see the problem and neither could any BME members in my own office.

Methinks that levels of confidence in PCS are rock bottom. I have also been surprised by people asking me if they should cancel their subscriptions now and have found more than one have already taken the plunge and joined the other main civil service union Prospect. We're talking members here not activists or reps and they tell me that they even save a couple of quid!

Which reminds me. PCS subs are increasing in March not that there's been any particular announcement about this from our "open" NEC.

The attempt of the leadership to solely blame the unions woes on the end of check off doesn't add up.

Serwotkas mishandling of the crisis in SOCA lost PCS a whole department full of members who went and founded their own union. which is why they are panicking about the setting up of a rival body in the HMRC.

The pensions deficit which came to light during the botched merger/takeover talks with Unite cannot be blamed on anything except perhaps bad management. The Independent Left make an interesting point about the growth and chnages to the Full Time Officers in PCS. They muse:

As we understand matters, the sale of the Clapham building will aid PCS in paying salaries and meeting its pension obligations. Yet the PCS leadership has spent a small fortune over its 11 years of union control in paying off full time officers whilst recruiting replacement staff more amenable to itself (and in large part those it is politically close to). It is a spendthrift policy that sees the Union paying out pensions to those it has early retired and lump sums to others whilst adding to the pay bill by recruiting comrades from the Socialist Party......

PCS is supposedly the most left wing union in the country yet it pays its officers salaries of up to £92,000 a year and with commensurate pensions! If the NEC had not year after year resisted IL arguments for a rational PCS pay structure that linked full time officer pay more closely to that of the members then the Union would be on a much sounder financial footing. Becoming a PCS Full Time Officer should be a labour movement vocation not a smart move to get far away from civil service salaries and move to a lifestyle way beyond that of our members.

Now quite rightly we are not allowed to talk about union employees but I thought it prudent to look at the odd case of the former Deputy General Secretary Hugh Lanning.

The leadership allowed Lanning to retire a couple of years early on full pension with lump sum and off he went. Trouble is he didn't retire and ended almost immediately standing for the post of General Secretary of another, smaller union (see here). Lanning lost but did receive the backing of Serwotka during his ill-fated campaign.

That never sat right with me. Lanning still hasn't retired, though his time would have been up last year and is currently the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Tunbridge Wells.

I can't help but think of the famous phrase "Jobs for the boys" when examining all these shenanigans.

Still it doesn't matter what us members think of all this. There will be no opportunity to bring the current Serwotka/Socialist Party leadership to account without an election. Even if there was, well its far too late and anyone trying to takeover PCS would face a nightmare trying to sort out the mess the "comrades" have made.

Seems to me that the die is cast.

A rump PCS will survive but since Serwotka and his motley crew have no credibility, they are all "hot air and no substance I'm not sure whats left will be of any use to members.

An insurance policy without any insurance.

The reason for the failure of PCS is the responsibility of far-left who turned the organisation into an "activists union" rather than a "representative" one.

That strategy was deliberate and outlined at many a PCS Organisers seminar.

Politics first, members second.

No wonder the union has plummeted to these depths of despair.

Not sure many of us would wish to be a part of it any more.


  1. The ISU, The RCTU and Prospect will all gain from of our dear PCS Union.

    The paused elections will be the final push for members to leave.

    It's a shame but the Ship H.M.S PCS is sinking fast it seems. :-(

  2. Isn't abandoning elections against its own rules?

    The sell off will help to pay for pensions, redundancies and relocations of certain personnel. HMS PCS has been scuttled by its own "success" of command and conquer. Get in the lifeboats before they fill up with men in frocks....