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19 May 2021

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PCS elections - incumbents win, but solid vote for Broad Left Network

  (Click to enlarge)

Katrine Williams, vice-president PCS DWP group (personal capacity)

The PCS 2021 national election results were announced on Friday 14 May. On a turnout reduced from just over 10% to 7.5% from the elections which last took place two years ago, the Democracy Alliance slate was re-elected. Significantly, only 13,000 members voted out of a potential of 170,000.

The Broad Left Network (BLN), which contested these elections for the first time, and has mounted the first serious challenge against the Democracy Alliance for twenty years, secured one place on the 35-strong executive body.

Departmental limitation prevented Socialist Party member Dave Semple from making that two. He secured over 4,000 votes, and other BLN candidates missed election by just a few hundred votes.

BLN supporters have gone from four seats to one on the executive. However, these four positions were secured in the 2019 elections before the split in Left Unity. This was triggered after leading Left Unity members, including PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, refused to accept the democratic election of Chris Baugh as Left Unity's candidate for the assistant general secretary election.

Standing for the first time, the Broad Left Network won a solid vote which provides a firm base to continue to build support for the BLN programme right across PCS. BLN supporters proposed discussions with the Independent Left (IL) on an electoral agreement that the results show, could have made inroads into the Democracy Alliance majority. However, the IL's lack of seriousness has been revealed by their refusal to properly engage with this.

The current union leadership has moved to the right under the pressure of events. This will continue and will be exposed in the coming period as the onslaught from the Tories increases as a result of 'Covid austerity'.

While the current leadership's move to the right has been clear to the BLN members on the national executive, the deterioration has not yet been experienced by the majority of PCS activists and members. This will change very quickly as the challenges faced by PCS members play out over the next period, and members are potentially forced back into the workplace.

This move to the right has already broken cover. During the ballot period the the BLN was attacked on the official union website for leafleting at the DVLA offices in Swansea, with the incredible claim that this undermined the DVLA dispute (see right).

Aside from being without foundation, and without any attempt to establish the facts, this use of official union resources to smear opponents sets a dangerous precedent in PCS - one akin to the election interference routinely practiced by the right-wing leadership of the CPSA, the PCS predecessor union.

Following the announcement of the results, Marion Lloyd, Socialist Party member and BLN candidate for union president said: "This is the first time the BLN has stood in the national PCS elections. The vote we have achieved is a solid one. And despite all the barriers, we are less than 1,500 votes behind our opponents."

The role that BLN supporters have played on the national executive committee over the last two years, especially during the Covid pandemic, has been fearless. We stood alone against the leadership when they parked our national pay claim last year, and we have continually demanded a far more combative and collective approach to the fight for safe workplaces for our members: one that, if acted upon, could mean a much safer working environment in both DVLA and Jobcentres.

We have built the BLN during this period, we have built support for our programme. This programme will be vital to deal with the attacks the Tories have planned for us.

All those members who want a fighting PCS - join us in that fight.

The Tory government and its big business backers, faced with a massive bill for the pandemic and Brexit, will unleash heightened attacks on us and public services generally. The PCS leadership will be faced with a choice - fight or fold. We must build the pressure to ensure they fight.

The role of the BLN is crucial. Its programme for a fighting democratic union and the increasing levels of support among PCS activists means the BLN can look to the future with confidence.

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