Broad Left Network of UK civil service union, PCS, calls for continuing pay campaign

Marion Lloyd (third from right) supporting ACAS and Insolvency Service members on strike.

The UK civil service trade union, PCS, is balloting its members on its response to a government pay offer. Socialist Party (CWI) members in PCS are part of the Broad Left Network (BLN), campaigning for a fighting, democratic union. The following is the text of a leaflet produced by supporters of the PCS Broad Left Network:

On 31 July a seven-page speakers’ brief was enclosed in the national PCS branch bulletin, putting the view of the National Executive Committee (NEC) majority. The NEC is led by the ‘Democracy Alliance’, made up of two groups: Left Unity and PCS Democrats.

The bulletin misrepresents what the NEC has done, and what those of us who oppose the NEC have said.

The NEC claims “we have won significant concessions but the campaign must continue”.

First, we disagree that the concessions are as significant as the NEC majority make out.

It is a £1,500 one-time, non-consolidated payment. This will get thinned down by tax, and those in receipt of Universal Credit will have their benefit entitlement reduced. For part-time staff, in the vast majority of civil service areas, the payment is pro-rata. It is below inflation.

Second, the NEC declaring “the campaign must continue” is completely dishonest!

  • They are calling off the strikes
  • They are calling off the reballots
  • They are cancelling the strike fund levy

Once all that is done, what campaign is left?

When out-going general secretary Mark Serwotka moved his paper at the NEC on 5 June, he spoke about the possibility of a ballot to settle the dispute, ie to accept the government’s offer as sufficient to end the national campaign. All Left Unity supporters on the NEC voted for Serwotka’s paper, although some voted against stopping the DWP reballot. This demobilised the national campaign at a stroke.

Our hope is that members will see clearly that you can’t “continue the campaign” by calling it off.

What about delegated pay bargaining?

Central to the argument in the national bulletin is the view that we must pause our strikes while delegated pay bargaining begins. Yet this ignores a crucial fact – one that is not mentioned by the national bulletin at all – the Treasury Pay Remit cap of 4.5% (or 5% for low-waged) is still in place!

It is true that some staff in the Home Office are being offered 13%. But the bulletin doesn’t say how many, relative to the entire 43,000 staff. The bulletin doesn’t admit that the overall Home Office pay offer will be under the Treasury cap. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul, trading off inflation-proof pay rises for some against severe pay cuts for others.

Our battle is not just with individual civil service employers. It is with the government.

If we don’t bring the Treasury to the bargaining table to cough up more money for all civil service employers, then, as announced recently in the Ministry of Defence, job cuts will be imposed even to pay for a limited, sub-inflation pay award.

A strategy that can win!

The NEC argues that our call for the continuation of strike action “is made without any proposals on the tactics and strategy.” This is not true. The Broad Left Network has clearly laid out what the strategy should have been, and what it should be now.

We must immediately launch a massive member-facing effort to organise the discontent over pay, the job cuts that are coming, the continued refusal to move on our pensions, and the continued threat to our redundancy rights.

This can be united with the battle over office closures, into a coherent campaign based on demands already agreed by PCS Annual Delegate Conference.

On pay that means a 10% consolidated increase with a £15-an-hour minimum wage for 2022-23, and an inflation-proof increase for 2023-24.

  • National strike action, across all civil service employers with a mandate
  • Targeted strike action in those areas where sustained action will resume pressure on the government
  • Hardship support for all branches – we must target our limited financial resources to support those members in danger of defaulting on bills
  • Reballots in all areas where the mandate has lapsed or is lapsing, including the DWP and HMRC
  • A serious discussion on the potential impact of action short of strike, in magnifying the impact of strikes

We need a change of leadership!

Marion Lloyd and the Broad Left Network stood on this platform of action in the May 2023 NEC elections. Unfortunately the Left Unity grouping won those elections.

They must be ousted. We are calling for all branches to nominate Marion Lloyd for general secretary, and to re-nominate John Moloney for assistant general secretary.

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