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Public and Commercial Services Union |
Annual Delegate Conference 2009 carried motion A72 on political campaigning. The NEC
was instructed to consult branches on the question of supporting trade union candidates in
elections, and on the question of PCS candidates standing in elections, and then report to ADC
2010. This document sets out the issues and asks branches to respond to the consultation.

Motion A72 noted that we had raised our campaigning issues with thousands of candidates in
local and national elections through the Make Your Vote Count campaign. Conference went
on to recognise the need to develop this approach further, particularly within the context of
economic crisis and likely public spending cuts.

The proposal, set out in the motion, is whether we take the fight to defend members’ interests
into the political arena by means of direct challenges to politicians who support attacks on
public services and workers’ terms and conditions. This would be an extension of our existing
campaigning work. The aim would be to make a difference for members, adding to the impact
of our campaigns.

This is an important question and branches are urged to ensure the document is discussed as
widely as possible and then to answer the consultation questions. The responses will be used
to inform a motion to ADC 2010 from the NEC. Any decisions taken by conference would be
then put to the whole membership in a national ballot.
Colin Edwards
Motion A72
Conference notes the effective political campaigning aimed at the defence of members’ jobs
and services being carried out under the banner of the Make Your Vote Count campaign.
Conference also welcomes our involvement in anti-fascist work as part of the campaign.

The PCS Make Your Vote Count campaign has been necessary to counter the political
consensus between the main parties on supporting public service job cuts and privatisation
(for example, the part-privatisation of Royal Mail) and holding down workers’ rights and public
sector pay. Conference notes, in particular, the large area of agreement between the parties
over the privatisation of bodies within the Civil Service.

Through the MYVC campaign members and activists have raised PCS campaigning issues with
thousands of candidates in local and national elections, winning expressions of support from
many. Conference notes that through holding dozens of Candidates Question Times and
participating in widespread anti-fascist activity we have raised the public profile of PCS and its
priorities. In particular we have sought to counter the consensus over civil service cuts and the
myths surrounding civil servants.

However, it has become clear that some parties and candidates prefer not to respond to our
concerns. In part this is due to the voting systems under which they are elected, and for this
reason PCS argues for a change to proportional representation, as agreed in Motion A152
in 2008. Conference notes the subsequent publication of the PCS Policy on Proportional

Conference notes that the MYVC campaign is based upon the independence of PCS from
any political party and on the primacy of members’ interests. We also note the need to
develop this approach further, particularly within the context of economic crisis and likely
public spending cuts, and take the fight to defend members’ interests into the political arena
possibly by means of direct challenges to politicians who support attacks on public services
and workers’ terms and conditions, in particular within the civil and public services. We note
the discussion among some trade unions on the need to stand candidates on the basis of
opposition to privatisation, closures, and attacks on workers’ rights.

Conference instructs the NEC to:
1.  Continue to campaign as an independent trade union, not affiliated to any
political party;
2.  Step up the MYVC campaign;
3. Campaign in favour of proportional representation in line with the report issued
to branches;
4.  Consult branches on the question of supporting trade union candidates in
elections, and on the question of PCS candidates standing in elections, and report
to ADC 2010.
5.  Participate in discussions and initiatives within the trade union movement on
this issue.
6.  Ensure that decisions taken at ADC 2010 on this issue are subject to the normal
consultation arrangements.
PCS has built a reputation amongst members and the wider movement as an effective
campaigning organisation. We campaign to advance the core interests of PCS members in
protecting their terms and conditions, and to defend the welfare state and public services

Our campaigning takes different forms: from local leafleting and using petitions with the
public, to using the national media, lobbying MPs and other work in the political arena.

We get involved in political campaigning because MPs and Ministers take the decisions which
determine our pay, jobs, and working conditions, as well as the public services we both deliver
and use. If we took the view that we shouldn’t get involved in such work it would be much
harder to defend our basic interests.

The Make Your Vote Count campaign is a key part of this work.

In 2007 PCS established the Make Your Vote Count (MYVC) campaign in response to the
growing political consensus among the major political parties around civil service job cuts.
The aim was to put our industrial issues, and the defence of public services in general, on the
political agenda and to put pressure on politicians to support PCS members.

The MYVC campaign was made possible by PCS members voting overwhelmingly, by 80%, to
establish a political fund in November 2005. This allowed PCS to break free from legal restrictions
that apply when a union wants to campaign on issues that are perceived to be political.

The campaign was first used as an essential part of our work around the national dispute
on the Gershon job cuts programme. MYVC aimed to involve as many PCS members and
potential members as possible by asking candidates in the Scottish Parliamentary, Welsh
Assembly and local elections in England and Scotland about their views on our core
campaigning issues of job cuts, privatisation and national pay.

We encouraged members to take part in activities by asking questions of all candidates
and then publishing these results locally and on the PCS website ahead of the elections so
members’ could use the information when they cast their vote. Where possible we also held
Candidate Question Time events. For many members and council candidates this was the first
time they had ever taken part in a hustings. 353 MYVC branch co-ordinators were appointed
in 299 branches.

In 2008, we again intervened in the local government and London Assembly elections to raise
our key issues with candidates. We also focused our resources on tackling fascists who stood
for election and supporting the Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) carnival. Many of our activists
took part in anti-fascist campaigning activities as part of MYVC throughout the country.

We also organised a MYVC campaign in the key Westminster parliamentary by-elections on
24 July in Glasgow East and 6 November in Glenrothes. Both by-elections featured high profile
candidate question time events and attracted significant press interest.
In 2009 we campaigned around the Euro elections. In these elections, for the first time since
the inception of MYVC, all members had a vote. Again we challenged candidates from across
the political spectrum (excluding the far right), this time on a wider range of issues, including
pay, privatisation, job cuts, office closures, tax and welfare policy and equality.

PCS members were again at the forefront of campaigning against the far right. Many local
campaigning activities involved PCS members, including three national days of anti fascist
action. PCS worked closely with local anti fascists groups and supported national initiatives
organised by Unite against Fascism, Hope not Hate, Searchlight and Love Music Hate Racism.

In 2009 PCS also intervened in two by-elections, again attracting a large amount of publicity:
in Norwich North on 23 July and in Glasgow North East on 12 November.

In all these campaigns the aim was not to recommend support for any particular party or
candidate, but to set out the candidates’ attitudes to our members’ concerns and thereby
inform members’ choice in the elections.

A look at the main parties’ candidates’ responses, however, shows how similar they are in
most cases. Moreover, in some national elections, the main parties have refused to answer our
questions, referring us only to their manifestos.

MYVC has been very successful. It is an innovative campaign now being emulated by other
unions. It works well in putting pressure on local candidates and raising the profile of PCS
members’ concerns. We will run another major MYVC campaign around the General Election
in 2010.

MYVC has exposed the lack of real choice for trade unionists in many elections as the
consensus over cuts in civil and public services prevails.

The proposal
Motion A72 was submitted to ADC 2009 by
the NEC on the basis of the experience of
the Make Your Vote Count campaign. The
question which arises for us is: how can we
best take members issues forward in the
political arena if all the candidates support
the prevailing cuts consensus?

The consultation is therefore on the proposal
that we should consider supporting trade
union candidates (from PCS or other unions)
Gary Kempston

standing specifically as part of campaigns to
oppose cuts in jobs, pay, and pensions and to
defend public services.
Questions & answers
Under what circumstances would we stand or support candidates?
There are three main, broad considerations.

First, the circumstances under which we might stand or support a candidate are not
ones which we would seek to manufacture, but are ones which on balance may seem to
offer us an opportunity to take forward a particular campaign.

Secondly, we would stand or support a trade union candidate because none of the
other candidates would support our campaigning aims over cuts, privatisation or other
government policies.

Thirdly, we would look at national rather than local elections, i.e. a Westminster
Parliament, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly election.
This would allow maximum publicity and resources to be focused on the campaign,
particularly if it was a by-election.

Will the union stand in national elections in every constituency?
No. We do not envisage PCS standing or supporting candidates across the board, or regardless
of the views of other candidates in a particular constituency. Our aim would be, as it is with
our existing political work, to raise the profile of our campaigns over PCS members’ jobs, pay
and public services and put pressure on politicians.

Would Make Your Vote Count continue?
Yes. MYVC has been a successful campaign and will continue to be the major element of
our political campaigning, particularly in the 2010 General Election. Standing or supporting
candidates would be a limited tactic to be adopted at later elections, a targeted weapon
used under certain circumstances where there would be a direct benefit to a campaign or
bargaining issue.

Would PCS support any political parties?
No. Our strength is based on an inclusive, member-led approach that continues to value our
independence above all else. It is that which unites us. It was on that basis that members
voted for the setting up of a Political Fund in 2005. Candidates would only be supported as
trade unionists campaigning against cuts in jobs, services and working conditions.

Would standing or supporting candidates mean union subscriptions
would go up?
No. The costs would be met from our existing Political Fund.

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
As stated above, we would look at standing or supporting candidates in national elections.
These could include elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and
the Northern Ireland Assembly. In some of these elections proportional representation is used
instead of the ‘first past the post’ voting used in Westminster elections and we would need to
consider that in making decisions on when to stand.
Motion A72 instructed the NEC to continue to campaign for proportional representation as
a fairer electoral system which would be more responsive to our campaigning. A report on
different types of PR was circulated to branches earlier this year.

In line with that motion, we submitted a motion to the TUC, which was supported by range
of unions, and which was carried. The motion commits the TUC to instigate a debate in the
movement about the need for a fairer proportional system of voting. A need for a public
debate on this is pressing, and it would be timely given the recent calls for PR following the MPs
expenses scandal and the widespread disillusionment that exists with Westminster elections.

Questions for branches
We are asking branches for their views on the principle of standing trade union candidates
in elections. Such a tactic would be added to our armoury of campaigning weapons that we
could use, when the circumstances were right, to advance that campaigning work.

Please send us your answers to the following questions:

1. Do you agree with the proposal that, to extend our campaigning over jobs, pay
and public services, the union should consider supporting or standing trade
union candidates in elections?

2. If yes, under what circumstances do you believe we should do so?

Action by branches
Please discuss the issues in your Branch. Then answer the consultation questions and respond
by post to:
A72 Consultation
General Secretary’s Office
160 Falcon Road
London SW11 2LN

Or email to: or online at
The deadline for receipt of responses is Tuesday 23 February 2010.

This booklet is available to download from the PCS website.

What happens next?
The NEC will consider the results of this consultation and submit a motion to ADC 2010.
Decisions taken at ADC would then be subject to a membership ballot later in 2010.
This and cover pics: Jess Hurd
3471: 12/09.

Public and Commercial Services Union |