On Saturday, 2 February the first conference of the brand-new Civil Service Rank and File Network took place. This is an organisation that was born out of radical action that took place in October last year. UK Civil Servants have been under increasing pressure from the government in recent years. And when Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude turned up at the Coventry tax office the workers mobilised and walked out. The Civil Service Rank and File Network has been established to ensure that radical action like that can take place more regularly with or without the union hierarchy’s blessing.
This movement includes people from across the rank and file of the civil service, those from factions within PCS as well as people without any affiliation whatsoever. And we gathered on Saturday in order to establish a constitution for the network so that it is fully up and running. This includes as horizontal a structure as possible with few elected positions and committees, with each position recallable by the members should things go wrong. This means we have created a structure that does not mimic the union hierarchy with all the problems that that entails.
This network is in its infancy and so it will only grow, providing that it offers a voice for the rank and file and that those individuals are interested in taking up the fight against the government. Civil Servants face a worrying future with job cuts, major changes to the pension scheme, a pay freeze and an astonishing attack on terms and conditions. The aims of the Civil Service Rank and File Network show that there is a possibility of taking radical and militant action whether this is backed by the union leadership or not. As the network grows the potential of the movement will surely grow with it and this is an incredibly exciting prospect.
The most pressing concern for members of the conference were the upcoming European Trade Union Confederation day of action in March and the scandalous sacking of Kevin Smith, a PCS representative in the Home Office. It was decided by delegates that the network would support and coordinate protest activity in solidarity with the European day of action or take part in strike action should PCS call a strike for the same day. In addition to this, it was decided to hold solidarity action in support of Kevin in his fight against the Home Office.
As the rank and file network develops I will report back on the progress that it makes. One of the most interesting aspects of this is the fact that part of my studies involves looking at rank and file movements in the past and the present in order to see if they can play a part in the future.