Resolution to Labour Conference: Save the NHS!

September 3, 2014 at 6:42 pm (Cross-post, Cuts, health service, labour party, posted by JD)

All Labour Party members take note!

saveournhs

Resolution to save the NHS sent to conference by three Constituency Labour Parties

At least three Constituency Labour Parties have submitted our contemporary resolution to Labour Party conference (see below); it is being discussed at a number more. We will publish a list of which CLPs have submitted it when the deadline closes on 11 September.

Meanwhile, if you have submitted the motion, want to or want more information, get in touch: email nhsliaison@yahoo.co.uk or ring 07796 690 874.

***

Conference notes NHS England’s 18 August announcement that all new GP contracts will be short-term APMS contracts. GP leaders have warned this marks the “death knell” of traditional life-long general practice, promoting corporate takeover of services.

Conference notes that last year £10bn from NHS spending went to “private providers” like Virgin and Care UK.

Conference notes that while PFI expenditure building hospitals was £12.2bn, the NHS is repaying £70.5bn.

Conference agrees with Andy Burnham that responding to NHS privatisation cannot wait until the election. We welcome Clive Efford’s private member’s bill if it reverses the worst privatisation.

Conference welcomes countrywide demonstrations in defence of the NHS, including the August-September Jarrow-London 999 march.

Conference supports the Living Wage campaign of Care UK workers in Doncaster, who since 29 July have taken five weeks strike action against wage cuts imposed by the private-equity firm which owns their employer. This situation shows the need for a public care system.

Conference commits to:
Repeal the Health and Social Care Act and “competition regulations” promoting marketisation/privatisation
Restore ministerial duty to provide comprehensive services
Reverse privatisation and outsourcing
Exclude healthcare from international “free trade” agreements
Rebuild a publicly-owned, publicly-accountable, publicly- (and adequately) funded NHS
End PFI and liberate the NHS from crushing PFI debts
Ensure any integration of health and social care is a public system
Ensure decent terms and conditions, including a Living Wage, for health and care staff
Reduce waiting times and implement health unions’ demand for a maximum patient-nurse ratio of 4:1.

(250 words – this is the maximum word limit)

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Unions vote against ending austerity in 2015

July 23, 2014 at 8:51 pm (Champagne Charlie, Cuts, grovelling, labour party, unions, Unite the union)

We’re reproducing another article by Jon Lansman of Left Futures. A behind-the-scenes supporter of Shiraz, who holds a senior position in one of the major unions, recommends Jon’s stuff as the best informed and most incisive commentary there is on the Labour-union link. This secret Shiraz-supporter particularly likes the way Jon brings out the fact (ignored by the likes of the Socialist Party and the SWP) that the trade union leadership is 100% complicit in all the Labour leadership’s “betrayals.”

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Above: Unite funds the People’s Assembly, but Len votes for austerity at Labour’s NPF

The climax of Labour’s formal policy process this weekend which had involved 1,300 amendments from local parties to eight policy documents, filtered down and composited by 77 regional representatives, was a debate on austerity. That’s fitting given that it is the foundation of the Coalition’s disastrous economic policy and, unfortunately, in a lighter version, of Ed Balls’s approach too.

What was less fitting, indeed shocking, was that it was a debate in which George McManus, the Yorkshire constituency representative moving the amendment, was given just one minute to speak, and Ed Balls the same. George made a great speech which you can read below. Ed’s speech consisted of a list of those who had withdrawn their amendments in favour of the “consensus wording” as if that was a sufficient argument for the perpetuation of austerity (and he ran over his time). There were no other speakers. The vote was 127 to 14 against the proposal that Labour’s policy be amended to read:

We recognise that the cost of living crisis is inextricably linked to government’s self-defeating austerity agenda. That is why we will introduce an emergency budget in 2015 to reject Tory spending plans for 2015-16 and beyond and set out how we will pursue a policy of investment for jobs and growth.”

Those voting against included some people representing the seven CLPs and numerous NPF members who had submitted almost identical wording and many more who essentially agreed with the amendment including representatives of all major trade unions (I’m told media and entertainment union BECTU voted for). After the vote, some of them, including leading MPs and trade unionists admitted their continuing support. They nevertheless felt compelled to vote against their own preferences and the policies of their unions. Continue reading →

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Unions could give Labour a bold, popular programme

July 20, 2014 at 10:44 am (Cross-post, elections, labour party, posted by JD, socialism, unions)

This article by Jon Lansman was written before this weekend’s Labour Policy Forum and first appeared at Left Futures . We think it makes some very important points about the present state of the Labour-union link:

United-we-bargain-Divided-we-begDoubts about this weekend’s meeting of Labour’s national policy forum have already been raised by Jon Cruddas’s comments (£) about the “dead hand” of central control, which I argued remained a problem because of mistakes by Ed Miliband. Of course, party managers have ensured that Cruddas and policy forum chair, Angela Eagle, attempt to present a picture of Labour “united by a single desire” for “big reform, not big spending.” Press commentators at the Independent and Guardian reveal the truth – that party managers are set on preventing commitments to necessary, financially prudent and popular reforms like taking railways back into the state sector at the end of current franchises. As Patrick Wintour puts it:

Ed Miliband is facing a weekend of battles behind closed doors to persuade Labour party activists to back his manifesto, which faces grassroots challenges over railway renationalisation, welfare caps and labour regulation.

Note the reference to “party activists” and “grassroots challenges“. In spite of all the rows in recent years about the “power of the trade unions”, reaching a climax in the Collins report earlier this year, the pressure for a radical bold programme comes not from ‘union barons’ but from party activists. And there is every prospect that the trade unions will this time, as on almost every occasion in the party’s history, allow Labour’s leadership to get its way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not an inch to Tory Europhobia!

July 1, 2014 at 1:14 pm (Champagne Charlie, David Cameron, Europe, internationalism, labour party, Murdoch, populism, Racism, reformism, Tory scum)

Above: the Europhobes’ last bogey-man

The Tory braying over Cameron’s “brave”/”principled” (etc, etc) stand against Jean-Claude Juncker is as preposterous as it is cynical. It’s quite clear that though some swivel-eyed backwoodsmen may take Cameron’s talk of “principle” at face value, the whole ridiculous charade has been a cynical exercise dreamt up by Lynton Crosby, to appease xenophobes within and without having to propose any specific policies or, indeed, actually do anything in particular other than vote against the “federalist” bogey-man.

The identification of Juncker as the embodiment of everything to be hated and despised about the EU is simply a re-run of the little-England hate-fest whipped up in the late-eighties and early-nineties by the Tories and the Murdoch press against Jacques Delores. Of course, Delores was a social democrat who really did stand for a (limited) extension of the ‘Social Europe’ agenda, including things like the Working Time Directive and the Acquired Rights Directive (aka TUPE). Juncker, on the other hand, is a mainstream centre-right politician with no interest in furthering  ‘Social Europe’ or enhancing workers’ rights in any way. But for the Tories, that’s not the point: he’s a “federalist” bureaucrat and an enemy of “reform” in Europe. What exactly this “reform” that Cameron keeps banging on about, is, remains largely unspecified, but when pushed, the Tories point to the Working Time Directive – that outrageous piece of foreign interference that denies all true English people their inalienable right to work more than 48 hours per week (unless they sign a chitty saying they want to).

So you don’t need psychic powers to know what the Tories mean when they talk about “reform” in Europe: dismantling the Social Europe agenda, removing the limited rights and protections that workers have achieved in Europe and – of course – restricting the free movement of labour within Europe. In other words, a thoroughly reactionary anti-working class agenda, spiced up with xenophobia and outright racism.

Junker is no friend of the working class, even to the extent that Delores was. But what the hell was Labour doing joining in with the Tories in demonising him? It’s also disappointing to see some usually thoughtful leftists and internationalists making concessions to this nonsense.

For once, the Graun‘s Polly Toynbee, not often someone we quote with approval here at Shiraz, has got it right (apart from her softness on the Lib Dems):

 There is no middle way on this one. Its [ie Labour's] stand must be: “This is the moment to choose: Vote Ukip or Tory if you want Out; vote Labour (or Lib Dem) for In to save British jobs.” Immigration drives much popular anti-Europeanism, so Labour has no choice but to say immigration is the price for prosperity. Time for gloves off with Ukip voters. Stop pretending a Ukip vote is respectable and call Faragists out as job-destroying racists and xenophobes. Explaining the decision to deny a referendum requires a bolder pro-EU message, and a more abrasive anti-Ukip and anti-Tory warning.

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Why the f*** is Labour backing Cameron’s EU posturing?

June 24, 2014 at 2:29 pm (David Cameron, democracy, elections, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, populism, reformism, stalinism, Tory scum)

EU Flag

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski sums up Cameron’s attempts to undo European integration:

“It’s either a very badly thought-through move or, not for the first time, a kind of  incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up – simple as that. He is not interested. He does not get it. He believes in stupid propaganda. He stupidly tries to play the system …

“His whole strategy of feeding [the Eurosceptics] scraps to satisfy them is, just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said fuck off … But he ceded the field to them that are now embarrassing him.”

Sikorski is, believe it or not, considered a political ally of Cameron’s and (like the Tories’ bête noir, Jean-Claude Junker) a thoroughgoing reactionary. But, of course, that’s not the reason for the rift between Cameron and the Euro-Tories of the centre-right EPP. They agree on most aspects of economic policy.

Nor is it – despite Tory demagogy –  anything to do with the elitism, bureaucratism and lack of democracy of EU institutions.

In fact David Cameron’s attempt to veto the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission is no stance against elitism, nor an attempt to make EU institutions more democratic. Within the highly-limited standards of EU democracy it is the exact opposite.

Juncker is the preferred candidate of the conservative political bloc which won the largest chunk of popular votes in May’s European election. But Cameron isn’t bothered by the tally of the popular vote. He prefers bureaucratic manoeuvring and nationalistic special pleading. Cameron, with an eye on his UKIP rivals, wants to be seen to be “fighting for Britain”. No matter that there is no great difference on economic policies between Juncker and the British Tory party.

It would be a whole lot better if the political semi-union of Europe, which Cameron choses out of political expediency to object to, were more democratic, more transparent and were not tied to a drive to make workers pay for the crisis.

But it is still a big step forward for working-class people around Europe that barriers between nations have been drastically reduced.

At a time when migrants are being scapegoated we need those barriers to stay down.

The semi-dissolution of the barriers has made it easier to fight the class struggle across Europe. If the labour movement leaders of Europe had any imagination they could run powerful Europe-wide campaigns. For instance they could organise a Europe-wide struggle for a decent Living Wage, one which would could generalise much needed solidarity to existing struggles of low-paid workers.

Unfortunately there are a few on the left in Europe (but notably not  the Greek radical-left party Syriza) who oppose the existence of the political union of the EU: in the UK it is the No2EU campaign. The logic of their campaign is to advocate the resurrection of national barriers. In this way they add to the increasing toxic nationalism of UKIP and Cameron. But No2EU are, in the main, a bunch of brain-dead Stalinists whose fanatical little-Englandism stems from a visceral hatred of Germany and a bizarre, anachronistic perception of the EU as a threat to the USSR (by means of a time-warp, presumably). The derisory number of votes they picked up in the last Euro-elections means we don’t have to take them seriously – though RMT members may well be wondering what the hell their leadership was doing throwing away the union’s money on this reactionary irrelevance.

Much more serious – and worrying – is the present stance of the Labour Party. That pompous prat of a shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, has instructed Labour MEPs not to support Junker. If that was because Junker is an anti-working class, pro-austerity right-winger, then we’d agree. But no;  the wretched Alexander has made it clear that the Labour leadership supports Cameron’s quest for a less “federalist” (ie: more right-wing) candidate: “There can be no excuses. David Cameron has a clear mandate from political parties here in the UK – including Labour – to build consensus across Europe for an alternative candidate for president of the commission.”

What a disgrace! Or, as Mr Sikorski might say, what an incompetent, badly thought-through, fucking fuck-up.

 

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Miliband and the Sun: WTF does he think he’s playing at?

June 13, 2014 at 6:30 pm (Champagne Charlie, labour party, Murdoch, plonker)

I voted for Ed Miliband  to be leader of the Labour Party. I have continued to defend him in arguments with disappointed friends and colleagues. When Eric Lee wrote this, I was inclined to think he (Eric) was either pulling our bell-ends, or had gone a bit bonkers. But now I’m not so sure…

Ed Miliband

Even Ed’s harshest critics tend to concede that he’s bright. So WTF is he doing endorsing Murdoch’s rag? Surely he (and/or his small army of advisers and spin-doctors) should have realised this would antagonise pretty much the entire population of Liverpool, most traditional Labour supporters and disillusioned ex-Liberal-voting Guardianistas: in other words a hefty chunk of the very voters Labour will depend upon at the next general election.

What a complete and utter plonker.

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Fiona Millar on the ‘Trojan Horse’ schools

June 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm (children, Education, Guardian, Islam, islamism, labour party, posted by JD, reblogged, religion, religious right, secularism, Tory scum)

The educational commentator Fiona Millar wrote the following article yesterday, before the publication of Ofsted’s reports into the Birmingham schools involved in the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations of undue and improper ultra- conservative Islamic influence (not “terrorism” or even “extremism”, by the way). Ofsted’s findings confirmed the essential truth of the allegations in the cases of several of the schools, five of which are to be placed in special measures.

At least Millar recognises the problems and dangers posed by allowing religion any influence in education – unlike the Graun‘s wretched apologist of an education editor, Richard Adams, who seems to wilfully misunderstand and misrepresent the issues at stake.

Miller takes particular exception to the appalling suggestion by the loathsome (Labour) MP Liam Byrne, that the solution to the problem is to turn these nominally secular schools into faith schools:

Why Liam Byrne is wrong about the “Trojan Horse” schools.

I am sure I am not alone in being unsure of what to think about the Birmingham “Trojan Horse “ story. I daresay we will find out more tomorrow when Ofsted publishes some of the reports into the schools implicated in the alleged plot to radicalise pupils in the area.

The key questions seem to me to be:

1. Have there been attempts to organise and pack the governing bodies of the schools? Someone with very good inside knowledge of the Birmingham situation told me that what has gone on in some of the schools is akin to the entryism of the Militant Tendency in the Labour Party in the 1980s

2. If there has been this sort of organisation – to what end? Is this because Islamic organisations want to radicalise pupils? Or is it, as some of the teachers and leaders in the schools have suggested, because they want to get involved and ensure that a previously marginalised and underperforming group get the best possible education? Some of the schools concerned do demonstrate outstanding achievement and progress for their pupils so there has been obviously been effective governance on one level.

3. But does the best education for this particular group of students, who make up almost 100% of the intake in some of the schools concerned, require a degree of “Islamification”.

Lee Donaghy , assistant principle of the Park View Academy, which is at the centre of the storm, was quoted in today’s Observer saying: “Part of raising achievement is schools acknowledging children’s faith and accommodating it”

But is that right? And if it is, how far should that accommodation go? I thought Tristram Hunt got it right on the Radio 4 Today programme yesterday. His message was that of course we want the highest standards, especially for previously underachieving ethnic groups, but we don’t want education excessively tailored to any one religious group in our state comprehensive schools and we do need better local oversight of schools than we have at present. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Left must face the truth about UKIP’s working class support

June 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm (AWL, class, elections, Europe, immigration, labour party, populism, posted by JD, unions, workers)

Words of wisdom from Dave Kirk at Workers Liberty:

Pointing the finger: the Ukip poster for the European elections has caused controversy

Above: UKIP’s appeal to angry British workers

In the left’s comments on UKIP “surge” there is much about anger and disenchantment with mainstream politics.

It is true that there is an understandable revulsion against the politicians and parties whose policies and ideology accelerated the effects of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s.

Tom Walker talks about that anger in his article for Left Unity.

Walker sees UKIP’s support as primarily a repository for anger with the mainstream that is channelled against migrants, minorities and Europe by UKIP. He argues that a strong “populist” party of the left could channel that anger to progressive ends.

Other left commentators have argued a similar thing about the nearly two thirds of voters who abstained in the election. That many of them could be won over by a convincing left party, if it existed.

I think this is dangerous wishful thinking that ignores ideology. Neo-liberal, pro-austerity and anti-migrant ideas are the ruling and largely unchallenged ideas of the age. It would be patronising and wrong to think those working-class voters who voted UKIP were duped into voting for a neo-liberal anti-migrant party. They must to some degree be convinced by, share and reproduce those ideas.

We would also be kidding ourselves if we thought that non-voters shared a form of left wing anti-austerity politics rather then reflecting the balance of ideology amongst those who do vote.

We can win these people to independent working class politics, but we must face facts squarely. Those who vote UKIP or are so despairing that they do not vote are much further from socialism then most Labour voters or Green voters.

Anger is not enough to win people to socialism. We must consciously build a socialist mass movement, a socialist press, a system of socialist education.

To do this the fight to transform the existing organisations of the working class, the unions, is key. It will also require a fight in the political organisation most left-wing workers still look to, the Labour Party.

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Unite: going through the motions

May 19, 2014 at 6:13 am (Europe, labour party, Middle East, palestine, Socialist Party, stalinism, Stop The War, Syria, unions, Unite the union, workers)

logo-unite

By Dale Street

No merger with the PCS this side of a General Election. And maybe never.

Although they do not put it as bluntly as this, that’s the substance of two of the motions submitted to the Unite Policy Conference being held in Liverpool late June and early July.

Merger with a union not affiliated to the Labour Party would be “a huge distraction” from winning the election for Labour. Mergers are a good thing only if the unions involved have “similar industrial interests”. Mergers are bad for Unite if its financial situation would be damaged by the pensions liabilities of the other union.

Consequently, there should not even be any discussions about any merger this side of the General Election. And any proposed merger should have the approval of either Unite’s biennial Policy Conference or at least 75% of its Executive Committee.

Given the enthusiasm of the Unite and PSC General Secretaries for a merger – albeit one not shared by broad swathes of activists in both unions – these two innocent-sounding motions are likely to provoke no small degree of controversy at the Unite conference.

And they are not the only motions likely to do so.

Conference will again see a clash over Europe, with one motion calling for opposition to quitting the EU, opposition to a referendum on EU membership, and support for a pro-EU vote in the event of a referendum.

Other motions variously call for the union to demand a referendum and British withdrawal, and to campaign alongside of other unions and organizations such as the RMT and “No to EU/Yes to Democracy”.

According to the latter motions, the EU “blocks any political advancement” (apparently simply by virtue of its existence), the EU is becoming “a NATO-style military force” (given its “involvement” in countries from Afghanistan to Mali), and Unite needs to offer an alternative to UKIP (apparently by saying the same thing as UKIP on the EU).

Given their involvement in the “No to EU/Yes to Democracy” electoral initiative, one wonders whether the Socialist Party will be backing such motions (which no doubt originated with supporters of the Communist Party of Britain / Morning Star).

Conference will also see a re-run of what is becoming the ritual biennial jousting about the union’s affiliation to the Labour Party.

Some motions argue that the Labour Party is the only show in town and denounce “the growing talk about establishing a new party as naïve and dangerous adventurism and question the real motive of those developing this agenda.”

Motions on the agenda which seek to “develop this agenda” include demands for what might be called a sliding scale of disaffiliation (a 10% cut in affiliation fees each time Labour and/or its leadership commit various political misdemeanours).

Other motions of the same ilk call for Unite to convene an open conference “on the crisis of political representation for the working class” in order to “discuss the way forward for working class representation.”

In fact, the real controversy about matters pertaining to the Labour Party will not be triggered by the pro-disaffiliation-but-too-gutless-to-say-so-openly motions but by two other motions.

One of them – a pro-affiliation motion – “applauds the 13 members of the Unite Executive Council who had the foresight to vote against the Collins proposals.”

(It should be remembered that the Unite leadership slavishly backed the Collins Review, and that the bulk of the United Left members on the Executive Council either backed or abstained on the vote on the Collins Review – contrary to United Left policy.)

The other motion commits Unite to encourage councillors to vote against cuts, to support councillors who do so, to defend them against disciplinary action, and to “establish a dialogue” with Councillors Against the Cuts, with a view to possible joint campaigning activity.

(At the moment the Unite “line” effectively amounts to standing on the sidelines, on the grounds that Labour councillors are accountable to the Labour Party, not Unite.)

The vast bulk of the motions on the conference agenda focus on what might be termed “bread and butter issues”, in the positive sense of the expression.

They are motions which focus on the basic issues which face workers, in workplaces, in Britain, under a Con-Dem government, in 2014:

Attacks on terms and conditions of employment. Declining health and safety standards. Attacks on pension rights. Attacks on effective trade union organization. The privatization of public services. The spread of zero-hours contracts. Austerity. Growing inequalities in employment and in society as a whole. Environmental damage caused by the chase for profits.

It is important to register that fact to counter bogus claims by the right wing – within and outside the trade union movement – that unions have lost touch with their members and focus on esoteric international issues at the expense of their members’ real concerns.

Having said that, the agenda does include a number of oddities.

Motion B27 harks back to the “Buy British” campaign of the Daily Mail of the 1960s by calling for legislation to ensure that multinationals, companies and government departments “buy British goods to support British workers.”

Motion F28 rightly condemns celebrations of the 1914-18 war but claims that the Tories’ celebrations are “at least in part a consequence of their defeat in Parliament over armed intervention in Syria”, and that opposition to militarism requires support for the so-called “Stop the War Coalition”.

(The latest feat of the latter “coalition” was to act as apologists for the Russian militarism’s annexation of Crimea.)

Among various motions attacking “Israel the Apartheid State”, motion F11 condemns the “inhuman conditions” in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria resulting from “the siege” and “military attacks”.

But the forces carrying out the siege and the attacks (i.e. the Syrian army, which enjoys the support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (General Command)) are not even mentioned in the motion. Instead the real culprit is … Israel! As the motion puts it:

“The situation in Yarmouk is a direct result of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine since 1948 and the failure of the world to address the rights and demands of the Palestinian people.”

(In contrast to the various “End Israeli Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine” motions which advocate ratcheting up the boycott of Israel, motion F12 calls on Unite to encourage Israeli and Palestinian unions “to maintain their strong bilateral relationship as an important aspect of bridge-building for the peace process.”)

Finally, and on a very different note, motion P5 lists a comprehensive and worthwhile series of measures which Unite should take to support lay reps in the workplace.

Never has the aphorism “When I try and get hold of a full-timer, none of the f***ers ever phone me back” been expressed more eloquently and more constructively than it is in this motion.

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No to the PCS-Unite lash-up!

May 16, 2014 at 2:51 am (AWL, labour party, Socialist Party, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

From the AWL website:

Above: McCluskey and Serwotka

By a PCS activist

The annual conference of PCS, the largest civil service trade union, on 20-22 May will debate a motion submitted by the union’s Executive (NEC) on PCS merging into the big general union Unite.

The motion would instruct the NEC, on completion of talks with Unite, to convene a special delegate conference to debate the terms of “merger” and decide whether to proceed to a membership ballot to authorise the “merger”.

Strictly speaking the “merger” would be a transfer of undertakings. PCS members, staff and assets would transfer into Unite, essentially on the basis of the Unite rulebook (although the PCS leadership is said to be looking for assurances on democracy and PCS membership of Unite decision making committees).

Some PCS members think the leadership is keen on merger because the union’s future looks extremely difficult. With Tory-led Coalition’s austerity drive, PCS has lost a significant number of members since May 2010. In 2013 alone it lost a net average (leavers minus joiners) of 1,600 members each month. Further civil service job cuts are looming.

Moreover the union is under explicit threat of Tory ministers quickly ending the “check-off” whereby civil service departments deduct PCS dues directly from members’ wages and pass them to the union.

The PCS Independent Left, the left wing opposition to the ruling Left Unity/ Democracy Alliance, has said that if PCS is facing financial meltdown then “merger” with Unite has to be supported, irrespective of qualms, simply to keep trade union organisation alive in the civil service and other workplaces where PCS organises.

However the PCS leaders claim that the union is well able to continue as an independent organisation. The PCS Independent Left therefore argues that it should do so rather than transfer members to Unite.

The PCS leaders proclaim that moving PCS to Unite “would create a union able to bridge the traditional divide between unions operating in the public and private sectors so that we can boost our bargaining power.” They do not explain how, for example, the bargaining power of Unite members in a car factory will be boosted by the adhesion of PCS to Unite, or how the bargaining power of civil servants in HMRC or DWP will be boosted by being in the same union as car workers and other trade unionists in the private sector.

The Left Unity/Democracy Alliance has run PCS for eleven years. Over that time it has totally failed to overcome successive governments’ divide-and-rule policy of carving the civil service up into a huge number of “delegated bargaining units” and to regain civil service national bargaining. Yet that same leadership now asserts that merely by joining Unite it will overcome the bargaining divisions between public and private sector workers.

The PCS leadership effectively assumes that union “merger” is a shortcut to the development of wider working-class political awareness and industrial militancy.

The PCS leaders state that “merger” (transfer!) would create “a new, powerful force in the public sector adapted to today’s changing industrial circumstances that can deliver more for members” but has not explained precisely what it sees as the changing industrial circumstances and precisely how this new force within Unite would be better able to deliver for Unite and PCS public sector members. They do not say how the awful defeats PCS has suffered under their leadership would have been avoided if we had been Unite members.

The underlying and only very partially stated argument would seem to be that:

• PCS cannot “win” against the state on its own (winning is rarely defined by the PCS leadership),

• Public sector workers must therefore strike together on pensions, pay, jobs and services (and presumably keep striking until the demands of all the different occupational areas of the striking public sector workers have been satisfied – not a model the PCS leadership followed in the pensions dispute with the last Labour Government)

• Unison and other unions cannot be trusted to do so, as shown by the pensions debacle in November 2011

• If PCS “merges” with Unite and a large public sector group is created, then Unite will be able to call out its civil service, NHS and local authority workers at the same time, and thereby put pressure on Unison and other unions to join with it.

There is plenty of talk about a “new powerful force”, “making a difference”, needing “a more effective trade union fightback in the public sector” and PCS and Unite sharing the same basic approach of being genuine fighters for members. However, nothing has prevented Unite and PCS from calling such joint action before now if they wanted to.

In reality, Unite remains a relatively minor player in the NHS and local government. A fully united public sector fightback would require Unison to play an effective and committed role. That is extremely unlikely under the current Unison leadership.

PCS should certainly agitate for joint action, but has to develop its own independent strategy for winning on issues facing PCS members. There is no short-cut through merger with Unite.

The PCS leaders hint that they see themselves (in Unite) as competing with Unison for authority in the TUC and members in the NHS and local government. They say, “A merged union would become the second largest public sector union. It would be the first public sector union to hold substantial membership in…the NHS, local government and central government.” PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka spoke at last year’s PCS conference of creating a “left wing pole of attraction” in the union movement.

But competition with Unison is unlikely to attract its membership in mass numbers. If a few left-wingers are won over, that will be at the price of them abandoning the fight to replace the leadership in Unison of Dave Prentis or a successor in the same mould chosen in Unison’s next General Secretary poll in 2015.

Mark Serwotka or the Socialist Party, the dominant group in the PCS leadership quite clearly see themselves running Unite’s public sector group. They are certainly not going to give up the leadership of an independent trade union just to play second fiddle in one sector within Unite.

And Socialist Party must have high hopes of dominating Unite’s “United Left” through the much bigger PCS Left Unity membership.

Merger is likely to mean losing PCS’s democratic structures and its actual and potential industrial coherence.

PCS has annual elections at all levels; annual national and group conferences; delegates directly elected by branch members; and a widespread membership understanding of the key industrial issues.

Delegates to Unite’s national conferences are indirectly elected by regional committees and regional industrial sector committees; national policy conference takes place every two years; national rules conference every four years; industrial sector conferences every two years. Elections for the Unite NEC, Regional and Branch Committees are held every three years.

PCS’s very different circumstances enable direct relationships between members and the different levels of the union and within the single “industry” that is the civil service and the private sector support companies that provide services to the civil service. The end result is a membership with common workplace experiences and issues that gives national PCS an explicit and (potentially) unifying coherence of trade union purpose. That makes accountability (potentially) easier to judge and deliver.

There is simply no real industrial logic to merger with Unite.

There is some opposition on the left and right to merger with Unite because of its relationship to the Labour Party. It’s an opposition which either sees PCS in apolitical terms (a union for state employees!) or sees politics purely in terms of standing would be left-wing independent candidates in opposition to the Labour Party. Both are wrong and fail to outline any way in which PCS can help remove the Tories from government, ease the considerable pressures on members, and replace them with a trade-union based party whose leaders need to be opposed and tested with positive working class policies.

For certain an alternative to Labour will not be found through TUSC or similar candidates. Serious socialists opposed to the merger should not get caught up with opposition on sectarian grounds.

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