Members overwhelming back more political campaigning against the cuts

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PCS members have voted overwhelmingly to stand or support candidates in national elections.

In what is a first for a union not affiliated to the Labour Party, the 78.9% ‘Yes’ vote comes as the union faces unprecedented cuts to jobs, pay and pensions.

In the same ballot, almost 81% of the 50,000 respondents voted to endorse the union’s wider political campaigning.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This historic vote gives us another weapon in our fight against cuts and for the alternative to austerity.

“It will allow us to directly challenge the Westminster cuts consensus that is making scapegoats of public sector workers, the unemployed, pensioners and students, and destroying our communities.

“We know austerity isn’t working and we know there is an alternative based on investment in decent public services, tackling the tax dodgers and redistributing our nation’s wealth to the millions instead of the millionaires.”

While trade unions have funded political candidates and parties for more than a hundred years, the union believes the result shows a clear desire for a political alternative to a consensus that means any opposition too often fails to properly challenge these cuts, or is relegated to being “a critical friend” of ministers’ plans to slash £28 billion in welfare support to the unemployed, sick and disabled.

The union plans to press election candidates even harder to make a stand against cuts.

Where they do not, and it helps its campaigns to defend members’ jobs and the public services everyone relies on, the union will consider supporting candidates or working with others to stand a candidate in national elections.

Examples might include backing an anti-cuts candidate in a parliamentary by-election where none of the main parties are opposing closures of local public services; or targeting prominent government ministers whose mainstream opponents are refusing to campaign against the cuts the minister is responsible for making.

The vote comes at the end of week in which Unite general secretary Len McCluskey told delegates to his union’s policy conference that unions could not achieve their objectives without political action.

He said: “If the workplace is the heart of Unite, and the wider working class community the next circle out, then politics is the next level. We speak for people who have ambitions that go beyond what are normally regarded as trade union bread-and-butter issues, whose ambitions are to live in a peaceful world which looks after its young and its old, which has values that go beyond profit.

“If trade unions like Unite don’t give voices to those aspirations then they will go unheard. That does not make us a political party, but it gives us a political responsibility.

“If we shrug and walk away, the only effect will be to make politics still more the exclusive preserve of a small, rich and powerful elite ruling over us but nor for us.”

You can read a report of his speech here.


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