The PCS National Executive Committee has taken the decision to suspend elections to the NEC and to Group Executive Committees for the coming year. Your Voice condemns this decision as a mistake and wholly unnecessary.
The NEC made this and several other decisions at an emergency meeting on Thursday 18 December. The meeting also decided on staffing reductions and budget cuts, whilst confirming the sell off of the HQ building in Clapham. The rationale given for this was the scale of government attacks on PCS.
A number of government departments are currently in the process of removing check-off, the facility to pay union subscriptions through payroll. This has left union reps rushing to sign members up to Direct Debit, with more and more other activity put on hold as the year has progressed, to combat a potentially massive loss of funds for the union.
This threat, and in particular the fact that elections would take resources away from the Direct Debit campaign, has been used as justification for the suspension. The costs of elections were also brought up in favour of the decision.
Whilst recognising dire threat that the removal of check off presents, alongside other measures such as union busting in HMRC, we nonetheless feel that suspending democracy was the wrong decision to take.
On a practical level, we know that there is under-engagement in elections just as there is a shortfall of take up for Direct Debit. Could both issues not have been addressed together? An election campaign would surely present an ideal time to engage with members and promote the need to defend the union, while more simply Direct Debit forms and literature could have been included in the mail shots.
In terms of cost cutting, there are no doubt any number of measures which could have made the ballots cheaper without doing away with them altogether. The savings may not have been as stark as the £600,000 quoted for this decision, but the loss wouldn’t be as great either.
Democracy is not simply a cost to be reduced, but a necessary part of organising as workers. Your Voice believes in a union run by its members at a rank-and-file level, and that requires more democracy rather than less. This should be a fundamental tenet of what defines us, not a niceity to be discarded when inconvenient.
There is much more that could be said on this issue. We are sure more will be in the run up to AGMs and Conference. In the meantime, we urge all those who oppose this decision to argue for their branch to adopt that same position and write to the NEC urging that they reverse it at their next meeting in January.
Facing off the attacks on our union from this government mean not only standing our ground but advancing forward. If we take a single step backwards, in terms of democracy or organisation, then that is a concession too many to our foes.