Latest post on Left Futures

PCS conference defeats its executive motion on merger with Unite

Dave Owens from DWP Liverpool moving motion A463 setting out conditions on any merger talksThe annual conference of civil service union PCS, after a lengthy debate described both as ‘heated‘ and ‘balanced‘, voted this morning to reject the motion from its executive on a merger between PCS and Unite, by 109,326 to 73,212 on a card vote. The conference did pass an emergency motion which, based on reports on Left Futures and elsewhere, criticised the apparent inconsistencies between information provided to PCS members and that to the Unite executive about the talks which have taken place, but approved continuing talks. These would, however, be subject to explicit conditions, including “ensuring a political fund independent of the Labour Party.

The PCS leadership insists that the talks will go on but since the Unite EC agreed only that “the transfer of engagements will be on the basis of our existing rule book“, and the PCS motion proposing initial talks with Unite passed only by a slim margin at last year’s conference, today’s decision must surely make the Unite takeover less likely.

Moving the motion, PCS president Janice Godrich, of the PCS left faction Left Unity and a member of the Socialist Party, said:

We have a duty to see if the talks with Unite could produce proposals that would mean an even more effective, campaigning, fighting organisation that can really make a difference in the fight against austerity.”

Many delegates, although not opposed to merger in principle, wanted to ensure that PCS representatives were set clear conditions. Leeds representative, Jane Aitchison, supporting the alternative motion, tweeted:

She was supported by her Bradford colleague, Rob Williams:

East Midlands delegate Julie Webster, reports the Morning Star, said retaining the union’s independent political fund must be the “bottom line”:

I’m not opposed to a merger in principle but it depends on what basis the merger happens.”

Ian Albert, newly re-elected PCS national executive member and supporter of PCS Democrats (a predominantly Labour Party, centre-left faction) tweeted:

PCS Democrats (which has just triumphed in the PCS executive elections in alliance with Left Unity) has made clear its position on the merger talks (though not yet on the merger itself):

We know that talks with Unite are a sensitive issue for members. PCS is a proud and independent union. That independence must not be given up lightly. And we know many PCS members will have concerns about joining a union that is a Labour affiliate.

This merger is absolutely not a done deal in our view – contrary to press reports!

PCS Democrats have taken NO view yet on whether we support the merger. That’s premature. But we do support the principle of talks with Unite. We will work closely with our Democracy Alliance Left Unity partners to see what can be achieved in negotiation on behalf of PCS members. We want to see maximise information/consultation with members and activists.

It has also agreed a joint statement with Unite’s centre/centre-left faction UniteNOW. One issue that stands out is the openness and transparency with which the negotiations are carried out:

Both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW want to ensure that members of both unions have sight of the same information and communications. This has not always been the case up to now…. Transparency in this process is absolutely critical to building confidence amongst lay members that this transfer will take place for the right reasons and in their interests and not those of officials or political groupings; Lay member participation must be at the centre of the talks and should be equally balanced on both sides as well as inclusive of the diversity of political opinions within both PCS and Unite.

The statement goes on to the issue of the final decision on any proposed ‘merger’:

Neither PCS Democrats nor UniteNOW have taken a formal position yet on whether to support the transfer of PCS into UNITE. This must await the outcome of the talks and the detailed proposals that emerge. However, as it currently stands only PCS members are guaranteed a vote in this process. PCS NEC are also proposing to hold a special conference. We think that’s right in principle.  Therefore, both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW support the motion going to the UNITE Conference calling for a Special Recall Conference to give UNITE members a say as well on any final agreement.

Many Unite members will sympathise with that view — at present it is envisaged that the Unite decision will be made by its executive, according to former Unite EC member Ian Allinson without whose blog even less would have been known about the discussions to date. More controversial, however, is the joint statement’s line on the accountability of full-time officials:

In an organisation of this size it is not acceptable that the only full-time officer elected position is that of General Secretary. If a merger is agreed, both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW will work together to develop proposals for a future Rules Conference that aim to increase the number of elected senior officials as well as the accountability of existing national and regional officials. This is already policy within PCS.

This is very much not the prevailing ethos of Unite whose philosophy is that of a lay member democracy which it inherits from the TGWU. UniteNOW comprises people who, on the whole, come from an Amicus background which, on this matter at least, is probably more significant than that they stand to the right of Unite’s dominant faction, the United Left.

The full text of the two PCS motions debated today is set out below:

The alternative motion, carried (A463)

Reports of the UNITE special Executive Meeting held on 17 April raise grave concerns about the “transfer of PCS engagements” into Unite by as early as January 2015, with no change to the Unite rule book and no change to their political fund. The reports of this meeting appearing in the press and on the internet appear to contradict information given to PCS members and the Briefing no 1 that appeared on 22 April.

These developments are not addressed by motions already agreed by SOC1 for ADC 2014.

1. Timetable
According to Briefing no 1 “Talks are at an early stage”. However the UNITE Executive authorised progress to formal talks with PCS. The possible timetable reported to Unite was a PCS special conference held in July or August, and a ballot of members held in September to allow PCS to join Unite from January 2015.

2. Rules and democratic structures
The Unite Executive received a report that no significant revision of UNITE’S rules would be required and that the transfer of engagements will be on the basis of their existing rule book. However Briefing no 1 states: “Talks will take place on maximising the democratic involvement of PCS members in line with ADC decisions. ”

3. Political affiliation Motions
A31 passed in 2013 stated that any talks should be on the basis of “Ensuring a Political Fund independent of the Labour Party and run in line with current PCS 14 policy.” However the UNITE Executive received a report that Unite are expecting no change to their political affiliations will be sought or considered in the context of the formal discussions.

4. Merger or takeover
Reports to PCS members and motions A30 and A31 passed at ADC 2013 have always discussed a merger with UNITE. However, it now seems that formal talks will be on
the basis of a transfer of PCS’s engagements into Unite. The report to the UNITE Executive expects “short-term transitional arrangements will suffice to ensure the full and complete integration of the PCS membership into Unites existing structures.”

Conference therefore resolves that:

  1. A full report on talks so far should be circulated urgently to members. This should include what steps have been taken by PCS negotiators to ensure the minimum conditions laid down in both motions A30 & A31 from ADC 2013;
  2. Further talks should only go ahead on the basis of ensuring that these minimum conditions are achieved; and
  3. Written reports of all talks should be given to the NEC and circulated to branches.

The defeated executive motion A21

Conference notes that ADC 2013 carried motions A30 and  A31 which recognised the potential benefits to members of a merger with Unite. ADC authorised the national executive  to open discussions on merger if approached by Unite which has now occurred. Conference believes that a merger with Unite could create a new, powerful force for fighting back trade unionism in the public sector capable of shifting the current passive approach of other unions which led to the squandering of the momentum generated by the joint union action over pensions on 30 November 2011.

We believe that a merged union could also create a new type of union capable of bridging the public/private divide, increasing the bargaining power of members in both sectors. It could potentially greatly strengthen the campaigning work successfully carried out by PCS over a number of years.

Conference notes that following a proposal made by Unite initial exploratory discussions on the structure of any formal talks took place late in 2013 and were reported to
the NEC. Subsequently, and in line with the decision made at ADC 2013, talks commenced on 24th February 2014. These discussions are (at the time of writing) at an early
stage. A full report on 24th February meeting was made to the NEC in March. Further meetings with Unite were due to take place later in March 2014.

The PCS approach to the talks is based on our vision of the potential for creating a new powerful trade union force capable of acting across the public and private sectors, and on the terms outlined in A30 and A31 from ADC 2013. These include that merger talks must be conducted in a transparent and democratic manner and take into account the principles which have underpinned our success in building PCS as a campaigning union: lay-led democracy and membership participation, strong workplace organisation and a clear commitment to equality.

Conference notes that, at its March meeting, the NEC agreed an extensive communications plan including:

  1. reports for reps on the details of talks
  2. an update to the Senior Lay Reps Consultative Forum
  3. a newsletter for members with additional specific materials for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,
  4. articles for members in PCS People and other PCS outlets,
  5. a video for members setting out the reasons for the talks and our objectives.

Conference instructs the NEC, on any conclusion of the talks, to convene a special delegate conference to debate the terms of any merger proposals and take decisions on whether to proceed to a membership ballot.

Image credit:  (delegate to PCS conference) “Dave Owens from DWP Liverpool moving motion A463 setting out conditions on any merger talks”


  1. James Martin says:

    Very interesting and surprising outcome, as the Exec appear top have thought the vote was in the bag. Clearly a rebellion by the non-aligned delegates has occurred here.

    Just a few clarifications though. PCS Democrats are indeed centre-left, but not Labour orientated as they originated from the secret left tankies in the pre-PCS PTC (the management grades union) and are still mainly CPB/Morning Star in outlook and composition (and still rather secretive).

    Also, Jane Aitcheson was until a couple of years ago a leading Socialist Party member in DWP and DWP Group Exec Chair until the fact that she decided to send her child to a private school got a little too embarrassing for them. I can only assume given the multiple splits and much reduced membership following the ‘Comrade Delta’ rape case that these days the DWP are much less fussy about such ‘personal’ matters when it comes to their own recruitment criteria.

    1. James Martin says:

      Sorry, should read that the ‘SWP are much less fussy’ not DWP!

  2. Mr jeffrey l davies says:

    PCS members will have concerns about joining a union that is a Labour affiliate. isn’t this the union who allowed its members to sanction people for our famous rtu ids isn’t this the union who allowed its members to do his bidding without remorse isn’t this the union allowed them to treat their fellow man has bonuses ie easter eggs has such yet they allowed this to happen perehaps they to will be in that que waiting to sign on nowing they can be sanctioned by their ex mates jeff3

    1. James Martin says:

      Actually Jeff, no you couldn’t be further from the truth. PCS policy on supporting claimants has always been very clear and has recently been strengthened – – there is also a good article in the latest PCS magazine regarding joint work with claimant/disability groups to oppose attacks on benefits. But you are right on one thing in your confusing rant – tens of thousands of PCS members, including many at Jobcentres have indeed been made redundant over the past few years…

      1. Mr jeffrey l davies says:

        yet it isn’t a rant is it truthfully they have done ids work sanctions and such hiding their help away I may be losing my brain but seeing jcp dwp staff abuse this system yet they have I aint ranted ive stated that which happens daily by their hands of jeff3

        1. Nicola H says:

          I agree with Jeff. The punitive regime currently decimating the lives of the sick, disabled and jobless is staffed by your members.

          If they all refused to abuse the most vulnerable in society even that *%$£ IDS could do nothing about it. Might even get some well needed media exposure, for once.

      2. diane says:

        I have to say I do agree with jeff above, if he is ranting then why didn’t you come out on strike for the way the DWP have treated unemployed people? & why were you compliant in the sanctions?
        A lady I know, that worked at the fraud dept of DWP, was laid off, as were many others. I asked her how they were going to handle fraud if so many of you are going/gone? She said it’s all about cheques & balances and the govt don’t care as long as they are saving money, she went on to tell me they were relying more & more on grassers rather than pay for staff.
        If you don’t do something about
        sanctions, etc then what about when you lose your jobs and you are the other side of the “desk”?

        1. James Martin says:

          In terms of strike action, no union has taken more strike days than PCS in the past few years, but the union is facing a huge assault on its very existence from Pickles and Maude with activists and reps regularly targeted and sacked (DWP in particularly seem happy to lose regular ET unfair dismissal claims as an ET can only impose a financial settlement not force DWP to reemploy unfairly dismissed PCS reps) – so I could ask the question the other way around, where has been the wider support from the movement here?

          But in terms of claimants I can only repeat that PCS is working closely with all the main claimant and disability groups, including the militant Black Triangle and DPAC organisations – – and to be perfectly honest, if Black Triangle and DPAC are happy with what PCS has tried to do then that’s good enough for me.

          And in terms of losing jobs, yes, aside from facing bullying managers civil servants have been battered by huge job losses under this government and as a result PCS has now lost in a very short amount of time getting on for a third of its membership. That it is still there and still fighting is something that should be applauded in my view.

          Oh, and for the record, I was a PCS member who got made redundant myself, although by the last Labour government rather than this Tory one…

  3. Jospeh says:

    PCS are hard up

    This is because they have mis-managed their union

    They are now obliged to go begging to Unite to bail them out by taking them on

    PCS want to dictate to Unite that they must change the way they operate if they are going to be so lucky to take on PCS and their financial black hole

    What bare faced cheek

    1. Josh W says:

      Sorry Joseph, incorrect there.

      Yes there is a pensions deficit, but it is being addressed and the Union as a whole is solvent and even starting to rebuild the savings & reserves. See Chris Baugh’s (AGS) financial reports for the last year.

  4. James Martin says:

    Report from today’s Morning Star of the debate yesterday at PCS national conference regarding attacks and sanctions on claimants and restating support for claimant and disability rights groups such as DPAC:

    So I would say to Jeff, Nicola and Diane, have you actually contacted your local PCS DWP branch secretaries to raise your own concerns? Because if you haven’t, and given that it is abundantly clear that one of the most active and militant trade unions in the country is doing their best and fighting against government attacks on claimants while themselves facing an employer who wants to destroy them (and is trying their best to do just that), how on earth can you justify coming onto a socialist website and attacking fellow trade unionists rather than the government who have introduced these attacks in the first place?

© 2024 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma