Last night the PCS NEC decided to call off strike action planned for the 28th of March this in my view was the right decision to take given the circumstances. Given the fact that the NUT had only decided to go for a one day strike in the London area and the UCU undecided at best what it was doing and lots of noises it wouldn’t come out on this day it left the PCS in a difficult position a position none of us had wanted at the start.
We all expected the unison bureaucracy to sell out at some point but no one thought it would be that quick.
Lots of credit has to go to the PCS and left unity in particular for organising their conference a fighting organising conference on the 7th of Jan this year to rally all those on the left willing to still fight.
With the lobbies of the TUC before Christmas and the left unity conference we would probably not even be at this point.
As it is PCS advocates more united co-ordinated action with other unions. This is still very possible given the NUT meets for its conference in Easter and it could call further united days of action which PCS will of course be involved with.
Anyone criticising PCS on this decision saying why they don’t take a lead is wishing to lead the union down the path to ruin. The government is looking for the PCS to go it alone and to isolate them and to go for them if they can. Remaining united if it means holding back until united action can be formed I believe personally is the correct decision at this time.
Of course PCS is a fighting left union with a excellent track record and those who wish to blindly jump into a national strike on their own ought to recognise the difficulties and limitations of that in forcing concessions and a win ultimately. Strategy has to be key here in winning this pension dispute a long well thought out campaign is needed and believe me PCS are not shying away from the fight they are bedding in for the long haul.
Here is the NEC press release in full if anyone has not read it I think it puts the case very clearly and does not sound like a sell out or an undemocratic decision over the top of members. PCS is not pulling out and will continue the fight but I agree on its own it probably can’t win alone it needs to link with other unions to force concessions and ultimately win. I am sure the comrades in PCS are not just interested in a grandstand of bring members out on strike for the sake of it. They correctly realise going out on strike is a serious decision for members and isn’t to be taken lightly.
Here is the NEC statement in full:
The national executive met today to consider the excellent consultative ballot result and the next steps in our pension’s campaign, including working towards a co-ordinate national strike in April.
PCS members voted by 90.5% to reject the government's 'final offer' on pensions and by 72.1% to support a programmed of further action with other unions - the highest vote for action we have ever had.
This excellent result represents an overwhelming rejection of the government's plans to force civil and public servants to pay more and work longer for less pension, and a clear mandate for action.
We obtained the result in the face of continuing attacks from the government, and during the pay freeze when many people are suffering personal financial hardship.
It is a testament to our reps who have worked so hard to build our union, and to members' resolve in the face of ongoing attacks from their employer.
We will be formally writing to the government to reject the pensions offer and seek urgent talks on a negotiated settlement.
On the question of industrial action, our general secretary reported that the National Union of Teachers had decided not to take national strike action on 28 March, as previously discussed by a group of unions. Other teachers' unions had also decided not to take action on that date.
Under these circumstances, the NEC agreed that PCS will work with other unions to build for co-ordinate national industrial action to take place at the earliest opportunity and before the end of April if possible. The NUT's annual conference runs from 6 to 10 April at which decisions are expected on further action.
Members of the NUT and the University and College Union in London will be taking action on 28 March and the NEC agreed to offer all practical support and solidarity.
To build support for national strike action at the end of April, including public support for the campaign, the NEC agreed to organize mass constituency lobbying of MPs during the Easter parliamentary recess, including targeted protests at cabinet ministers' constituencies in conjunction with other unions.
PCS branches and regions are also being urged to support and organize other local protests and campaign events against government attacks on jobs, pay and public services.
The NEC's decisions have been based on two key considerations. First, since the government's policy has been applied across the whole public sector, national coordinated action by as many unions as possible has been necessary to win concessions.
Secondly a strategy to win a fair settlement to the dispute must involve a programmed of action involving joint national strike action with other unions; joint national, regional and local protests; lobbying of ministers, MPs and other politicians; and co-ordinate targeted industrial action in some sectors.
In the absence of any positive engagement by the employer in genuine negotiations we want to proceed to national joint action as soon as possible.
However, action on 28 March in conjunction with NUT members in London and UCU in colleges and universities would not constitute the national co-ordinate strike action across pension schemes which we have agreed is necessary and which members have voted for.
The NEC agreed to work tirelessly to build for a national co-ordinate strike later in April.
The NEC thanks members and reps for their support for the campaign so far. We now need to work with other unions to build the action that will be necessary to win a fair settlement on pensions and to face the challenges of pay and job cuts that this brutal government is inflicting on the public sector.