The national executive of the PCS union has stalled action over attacks on the civil service until September. This is a clear demobilising tactic which must be met with a summer of rank-and-file activity.
The union leadership’s decision is to call for a “national day of protest activities” on Thursday 27 June, when teachers in the north west of England are taking strike action. This will be followed up with a consultation through the summer, which they will consider in September when they will announce the next phase of industrial action.
We should welcome the fact that the union is now considering a much broader range of industrial tactics than simple one day strikes. However, it is at the same time disappointing that a relatively solid three months of rolling action will now be followed by a lull in activity of almost the same duration.
The campaign motion successfully moved by the national executive at PCS conference in May did indeed call for an “extensive consultation.” This gives the leadership the cover of following policy voted for by its membership. However, the debate on the motion was explicitly framed in terms of escalating action in opposition to those wishing to back down. There was also talk of coordinating action with the teachers’ unions – hence the instruction to “call national action involving all balloted members at the end of June.”
That this has now been watered down to “protest activity” suggests either that the leadership have lost their nerve, or that they were being disingenuous from the start. We agree that action should be led by the will of the members, but this should be an ongoing process of ground-level organisation, not a corporate engagement exercise which acts as a brake on the dispute.
In response to this development, the Civil Service Rank & File Network believes that workers need to take the initiative so we do not gift the government with a summer of inaction from those they are attacking.
We therefore urge workers to organise whatever form of disruptive activities are possible on June 27. This could be anything from flexi protests and short walkouts to sit down strikes and occupations. PCS wants this day to send the Cabinet Office and ministers a message – and that will not happen if we limit ourselves to passively waving a flag during our lunch breaks.
Rank-and-file workers should also proactively engage with the union’s consultation. Not by filling in a questionnaire, but by convening Special General Meetings in order to debate tactics with your workmates and putting demands on the leadership to get its act together before September. These meetings can also be used to set up membership-controlled strike committees and strike funds in order to keep what the rank-and-file want at the heart of the struggle.
The Civil Service Rank & File Network intends to call further national days of action throughout the summer. We would also encourage workers to stage whatever actions they can locally alongside any national coordination.
Footnote: Special General Meetings, in most PCS branch constitutions, are called on request from a certain percentage of members in the branch. An example request is attached (.doc), but the number of members’ signatures required and other details may vary depending on your branch constitution.