Martin Boyd, a supporter of Socialist Resistance who is active in the PCS union, shares his concerns about what’s happening in it.
For quite some time rumours and queries about the state of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) finances have been in the public domain. It appeared that the financial crisis within the union might be the reason for the desire to merge with Unite.
However, despite the fact that in early December after the usual National Executive Committee (NEC), that we were told took bold financial measures including agreeing the sale of the union HQ, would provide financial stability in the short and medium term.
An emergency NEC meeting was called within a matter of days after the NEC and how did we find out about this emergency meeting
- By “rumour”.
- Being a trusted mate of someone on the NEC.
- Better still, being a trusted mate of the “inner core” of full time and lay officers that make the key decisions.
However, most of us don’t have mates on the NEC and even fewer of us have mates amongst the senior full time officers. As part of the bold financial decisions taken it was agreed that the annual national and group elections be suspended.
So from a situation where it was reported that the unions finances were now in a stable situation within a matter of days the situation has become so grave that in order to save money elections will not be held
Behind the financial crisis is a falling membership due to staff redundancies and the end of check off, the stopping of taking subs from pay and forcing the Union to ask people to pay by Direct Debit. This attack on check off began in 2013 when it was announced it would end in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). This attempt was successfully stopped by a legal challenge in September 2013, with the legal judgement supporting the union that check off was a contractual right. Despite this victory it was obvious to al that this was merely a temporary setback to the Government and there would be a concerted effort to end check off. Despite these warnings the union leadership did nothing to campaign amongst members to switch to direct debit until the summer of 2014.
Alongside the tardiness of the leadership in realising that check off was ending, has being a complete failure of the union leadership to offer any real strategy in opposing job losses and office closures. We have a series of unrelated one day strikes that only serve to demoralise the membership, last year’s NEC election turnout was at an all time low. It seemed very likely that the turn out for the next set of NEC elections would be even lower.
The effect of these derisory turn outs is of course to undermine the legitimacy of the union leadership, a leadership that attempted to get the 2014 union conference to agree a merger with Unite and whilst a merger was not ruled out. Conference felt there needed to be more discussion about how the new union would operate with the inclusion of ex PCS members.
Apart from the very real financial crisis facing the union (and does it really mean we need to merge with another union?) or is it part of a grand scheme by the Socialist Party to imagine that it can act as a lever in breaking Unite from the Labour Party and within which union the Socialist Party becomes a left wing pole of attraction. And if this sounds familiar, that is because it is, when the forerunner of the Socialist Party, the Militant Tendency was in the Labour Party, they fondly imagined that if the Bennites took over the Labour Party, they would automatically become the left wing of this realigned party.
The reality is that the SP leadership of the union has provided no coherent strategy in defending jobs and service, has presided over a complete financial meltdown of the union. It is now proposing cancelling election and merging with Unite.
Cancelling elections will mean that the opponents of the current leadership will be prevented from standing and putting forward their arguments in elections and leave the existing leadership in place.