Mark Serwotka

Finding our voice

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On occasion I get mail (some of it signed) telling me to stick to union issues and stay out of politics.

But what a hospital cleaner, tanker driver or civil servant gets paid compared to, say, a commodities trader or chief executive of a bank is political. And the government's policy of holding down public sector wages in a time of rampant inflation has made it doubly so.

The TUC Congress this year was characterised by a sense of crisis, with many thinking Labour would lose the next election. This raised questions about how to respond and whether alternatives to Labour were possible.

United we stay

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The PCS civil service workers' union conference last month may turn out to have been the most significant in the union's ten year history.

It was characterised by unity and consideration of the extremely difficult industrial and political circumstances we, and the rest of the public sector, face. Our activists have been engaged in an extended period of struggle over the past few years. We have upheld our principles of solidarity, unity and, crucially, independence from the political establishment. And we have shown that they work.

Building an alternative to New Labour

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As Gordon Brown's neoliberal attacks on workers intensify, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil servants' union, outlines his vision for a fighting left in Britain today

The Tories, once thought by many to have been consigned to opposition for at least a generation, are gaining in the polls. The genuine hope that Labour would begin the long overdue process of reversing the effects of 18 years of Tory rule brought their 1997 landslide victory. But ten years on there is widespread disappointment and, arguably, we have a government in crisis. Gordon Brown has replaced Tony Blair - but with little evident effect or result in terms of government direction.

Raising the stakes

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The sight of Gordon Brown greeting Margaret Thatcher warmly at the door of Number 10 must have left most Labour supporters aghast.

It highlighted the extent to which the hated priorities of the Tories have been adopted wholesale by the government. Sadly, criticism from within the Labour Party was muted.

But where mainstream politics, and its obsession with pro-market solutions, has failed, PCS is taking action. Our national dispute actively opposes the public sector pay freeze, job cuts and the consequences of privatisation.

Unity in action

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I was sorry that John McDonnell's campaign to stand as Labour Party leader came to a halt.

It was good that he stood. His campaign threw up issues of substance, by him openly opposing both the Iraq war and privatisation, for example. It is incredible that not even the requisite handful of Labour MPs could be found to nominate him.

Instead we have been offered a pale shadow of a contest - the deputy leadership race. Just how little of an alternative is on offer can be seen from looking at the material distributed to members of affiliated unions (of which my union, the PCS, is not one, I should point out).

Make your vote count

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No doubt readers of Socialist Review are aware of the PCS dispute with the civil service and associated employers with the latest national strike which took place on 1 May.

We have been taking action over industrial matters - pay offers below inflation, job cuts, compulsory redundancies, attacks on conditions, the damaging effects of privatisation and outsourcing. But the problems public servants face (and not just PCS members, by any means) are the industrial relations consequences of decisions made by politicians.

They have decided that there must be a business case for everything. They consider that the pursuit of social benefit no longer justifies policy. There has to be a potential for profit to make any activity worthwhile to them.

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