Dave Semple PCS NEC member (personal capacity)
Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union activist Chris Baugh will be fighting for re-election as Assistant General Secretary in this year’s April union elections.
Chris, a former rep in HM Land Registry, a passionate defender of rank and file control of the union and a member of the Socialist Party, was chosen by PCS Left Unity as their candidate. Chris has held the post of AGS since 2004, and has been re-elected to it by union members every five years.
Socialist activists in PCS Left Unity vote each year to decide who their candidate will be for the union’s national elections, including the National Executive Committee (elected every year) and the Assistant General Secretary and General Secretary (each elected every five years).
All Left Unity activists then put the democratically chosen group of candidates forward at their union branch annual general meetings, to gather branch nominations. For the best part of twenty years, this process has united the left in PCS. Having a united slate of socialist, activist candidates has ensured left leadership on the union’s National Executive Committee.
It has ensured that the union fights against the pay cuts, job cuts, pension cuts and office closures that are the hallmarks of austerity, rather than merely voicing token opposition and killing off union campaigns by stealth, as the old “Moderate” leadership did.
Chris has faced a sustained challenge from some within PCS Left Unity, including the current PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka. Serwotka backed first Janice Godrich and then Stella Dennis as candidates for the left nomination.
Chris ultimately won a protracted argument and election within PCS Left Unity to secure his candidacy. He had agreed not to stand if the left did not pick him as their candidate, so as not to split the activist vote – but in a re-run election in January 2019, he won a clear majority of votes.
splitting the left
Others, such as Mark Serwotka, are less concerned about splitting the vote. Despite publicly saying that he would accept the result of the LU candidate election process, Serwotka has since totally reversed course to announce support for Lynn Henderson.
Lynn threw her hat into the AGS ring over Christmas 2018. She is a paid official of the union, who has never been elected to a single union post and has never been a rank and file rep in the union. Lynn is the “establishment” candidate, with an army of backers from the hierarchy of other unions, from other unelected full time officers in PCS, from the STUC and even from parliamentary political parties but precious few backers from the rank and file of PCS reps – those who fight every day to defend members at work.
Chris Baugh’s record as a fighter for PCS members is very clear. For years, he has opposed Labour, Tory and Con-Dem attacks on pay, pensions, jobs, offices and plenty more besides.
He was instrumental in pushing through agreements which protected our redundancy rights and gave us guarantees that have since been used to avoid large scale compulsory redundancies across the whole civil service.
As the union’s national treasurer, he has ensured financial stability despite government attempts to smash our union by withdrawing check-off. He has ensured that whenever groups of members move into dispute, resources have been available for campaign materials.
Chris has played a key role fighting for the trade union movement to take green issues seriously, with his plan for a million green, public sector jobs – which would roll back the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the civil service since the 2000s.
Unlike Lynn, Chris has decades of experience in the civil service – and many years of experience as AGS in supporting the union’s work in the commercial sector, so that private sector members do not feel they are the poor relation to civil service members of PCS.
Opponents are arguing that Chris Baugh does not support the national pay campaign, but this is a fiction. Chris and other members of the National Executive Committee have consistently asked questions about the current strategy, to avoid a case of simply re-running the same ballot the union held in summer 2018, where less than 50% of member voted.
Due to the new anti-union laws, this means that the result was not valid, to allow a dispute and strike action. Alternative ideas have been suggested, such as balloting members in stages, to have a national campaign on pay but to ensure that we have the best chance of clearing the 50% threshold.
These ideas have been seized on opportunistically to portray Chris as divisive. In fact Chris, all Socialist Party members in PCS and all those who backed the Chris4AGS campaign have been the most determined to get over the 50% threshold, so we can take action against the attacks raining down on members.
It is the near-McCarthyite baiting of socialist activists within PCS by opponents of Chris that is the real cause of division, along with the endless questioning of motives and personal attacks.
These methods have no place in a democratic left, or in a democratic union. We call on all left activists in the union to unite behind Chris, for a lay-led, fighting, democratic union with socialist policies and for a united campaign to defeat the pay cap once and for all.