Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mark Serwotka: we must unite like never before

It's apt that PCS - the largest of the civil service trade unions - which was in the front line of the assault on trade union organising under the Coalition Government - is the first major union to hold a Conference since the General Election.

Mark Serwotka is right that PCS, like all unions, needs to learn the lesson that what works best for us is standing up to a bullying Government. A policy of appeasement of the Coalition on the part of many other unions (my own included) gave us a 20% reduction in living standards, increased pension contributions and massive job cuts.

We cannot afford to pursue a similar line now that the Tories are unleashed upon us blue in tooth and claw. 

We need a twin track approach of campaigning hard against the Government whilst preparing our organisation for the attacks we can see coming (and those senior union officials who looked on and thought that PCS were too slow to start moving their members in the civil service to paying subscriptions by direct debit need not to repeat that error in the health service, education and local government).
Serwotka's welcome call for unity has to be unity in action, not the quiet, cautious unity of those who believe they can broker deals with Tories on the rampage. 

Unity also requires a resolution of the issues between senior officials of UNISON and PCS which recognises that there is right (and wrong) on both sides and that it would be an irresponsible diversion from the challenges we now face for either side to fail to approach the question with humility and a focus on the interests of our movement as a whole.

If I am re-elected to UNISON's National Executive Council, I will suggest to our next President that senior lay members of each union should get together to resolve differences and agree a way forward for joint working. 

Of course I can't say whether such a suggestion will find favour with anyone - but I think that lay activists in each union have a responsibility to rebuild bridges (rather than echo the mutual hostility of some officials).

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

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