The leader of the PCS told the trade union’s annual conference in Brighton that a fighting fund would support more “targeted and sustained industrial action”.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union), won backing for his “campaigning message” and the threat of more strikes.
Mr Serwotka proposed a motion on behalf of the union’s national executive. He urged members to “join in every protest and attend every meeting to beat the Tory government and end austerity”.
And he said that austerity had caused havoc to the lives of PCS members and visited misery upon millions of people.
This was caused, he said, through cuts to jobs, pay and pensions as well as detrimental changes to terms and conditions.
Mr Serwotka said that the union had been “a leading advocate of the fightback against austerity” and “our campaigning message that there is an alternative to austerity has gained wide support”.
The conference carried the motion yesterday morning (Wednesday 20 May). It pointed out that the union had “mobilised members in a national campaign that has seen five days of national strike action, 110 days of national action short of strike, and 140 days of strike action and 526 days of action short of strike across bargaining areas”.
He said: “We have identified workplaces where we may be able to exercise leverage with more targeted and sustained industrial action and have established a fighting fund to support that action.”
And he congratulated members and activists in maintaining their campaigning against austerity within a hostile environment of union busting and while the union’s priority had “necessarily been to sign members up to direct debit”.
The motion was drafted before the general election and, the union said, against a backdrop of 90,000 jobs being cut in the last parliament.
There were attacks on reps’ facility time and pay freezes that had effectively meant a 20 per cent real terms cut in members’ living standards.
Mr Serwotka emphasised the need to fight the Conservative government and the “cuts that will now come”.
He said that the union’s national campaign should involve national action supplemented by targeted, specific action that can “inflict the maximum pressure”.
He added that the PCS should be prominent in supporting the National Gallery rally in London on Saturday 30 May and the People’s Assembly anti-austerity rally on Saturday 20 June.
The motion instructed the NEC to
- Table fresh demands to the employer following the establishment of the new government in 2015 based on conference policy and consultation with groups and branches
- Hold a ballot of members on a programme of industrial action should negotiations yield insufficient progress
- Work with branches to build our organisational capacity in areas of identified leverage
- Develop a programme of targeted industrial action, and national action to exert pressure to bring about central negotiations in the UK civil service and non-departmental public bodies
- Continue to put forward the case for co-ordinated joint industrial action with other unions over public sector-wide issues
In his keynote address to delegates in Brighton, Mr Serwotka spoke about the threatened changes to balloting legislation.
He said: “If the Tories wanted more people to vote, they would introduce voting by phone, internet and in workplaces.
“People have a fundamental right to withdraw their labour but the fact is the Tories don’t want us to strike because they don’t want us to oppose the attacks they’re going to unleash.”
On the election and the need for electoral reform, he said: “We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t desperately disappointed by the result of the general election.
“The lesson isn’t that the Tories won but that Labour lost because they failed to offer a credible alternative to austerity politics.
“In Scotland the Westminster parties were blown away. Whatever anyone thinks of the SNP, what was clearly rejected was a consensus that backed austerity, Trident renewal and more of the same.
“It is clear our political system is failing to reflect people’s views. Now is the time to step up the campaign for proportional representation.
“By the day more and more people in the labour movement are coming to the conclusion that we need PR to have a fair electoral system but also so we can genuinely see anti-austerity politics take a foothold in the UK.”
On the need for co-ordinated action by the unions, he said: “It is our task to give people hope, to build their confidence and show them we can win. We don’t have to accept defeat as an inevitable state of affairs for the next five years.
“We not only need united co-ordinated action but we need common demands and common negotiations and industrial action strategies.
“Let’s go from here determined and inspired and believing we can win. We need to be prepared to fight like never before.
“If we do that, we can look forward to the future with confidence. If we look inward, we will regret it for generations to come.”
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