By New Worker
MARK Serwotka, general secretary of the civil service union PCS, last Saturday made a blistering attack on right-wing unions leaders who had failed their members last December by dropping out of the concerted union fight to defend public sector pensions.
He was speaking at the annual conference of the National Shop Stewards Network, with around 500 delegates in Friends Meeting House, Euston, London.
He described the meeting on 19th December last year, just days after the two-million-strong one-day public sector strike in defence of pensions where some unions had dropped out of the battle on the basis of a very weak offer from the Government.
Serwotka said there were some there “who didn’t want to see a struggle”. “Outside we could hear the union members in the street chanting: ‘No sell-out’. But some union leaders ridiculed them and opted to pull the plug.”
He named no names but the leadership of Unison came in for some very heavy criticism.
Throughout the struggle PCS has taken a lead in trying to build joint union cohesion for the struggle – not only for pensions but against the damaging effects of the Con-Dem Coalition cuts on working class living standards.
Serwotka spoke of the “rogues and charlatans who sold out the pensions struggle” and how he would sooner have been outside the meeting room with the activists in the street.
“In the political battle against the current austerity programme normal rules of engagement do not apply.
“Eighty-five per cent of the austerity cuts are still to come. This is not the normal ebb and flow of union negotiations.
“The Coalition intends to unleash an assault on our class of a kind we have not seen before. There has never been a more important time than now to have a political opposition ready to defend our class. But the Labour Party response has been pitiful, letting down the people who need so much more….
“We want people bold enough to say ‘Not a single cut!’ We need a coalition of unions ready to fight,” he said.
Serwotka spoke of the progress since December, leading to the 10th May strike that included several public sector unions – including the Police Federation.
PCS has been pushing for another one-day strike on 21st June: “But one union cannot do this alone”. Serwotka said that PCS would have to make a serious judgement as to whether it would be better to postpone the action and build for a bigger strike later in the year.
The conference – all active shop stewards at the cutting edge of the struggle – gave its full support to another national march against the cuts and speaker after speaker stood up to re-iterate Serwotka’s criticisms of right-wing union leaderships who sold out the interests of their members.
And they all agreed there should be “more 30th Novembers”. The one-day conference was chaired by Rob Williams and Katrine Williams.
Alex Gordon, president of the RMT also make a very good speech and PJ McParlin, chair of the Prison Officers’ Association received a round of applause for the illegal action his union took in defiance of anti-union laws.
Dr Jackie Grunskill spoke for the British Medical Association on why doctors are now fully involved in the battle against the cuts and threatening strike action.
Ray Lufford from the Remploy trade unions was another speaker who attracted a lot of applause as was construction worker Steve Kelly of Unite speaking about blacklisting.
There were also international speakers from the trade union movements in Greece and Kazakhstan.
NSSN communications officer Suzanne Muna moved an NSSN Guide to Action, which welcomed the TUC national demo being organised in October and called for it to be a "start to the next phase of an action-based campaign against austerity”.
"We advocate that the next step should be for the TUC to organise a one-day general strike, which includes both public and private sectors," she said.