Members of the Public and Commercial Services unionhave voted overwhelmingly to strengthen their campaigning against cuts and for the alternative to austerity with an historic decision to back election candidates.
In what is a first for a union not affiliated to the Labour party, PCS members have voted to expand the union's political remit beyond just asking would-be politicians what they stand for.
The 78.9% vote in favour comes as public sector workers face unprecedented cuts to their jobs, pay and pensions to pay for economic problems caused by the greed and recklessness of bankers and financial traders and a lack of political will to rein them in.
While trade unions have funded political candidates and parties for more than a hundred years, the union says this 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.
With the government making our economic situation worse and causing misery in our communities, the union will now press candidates even harder to make a stand against cuts.
Where they do not, and it helps campaigns to defend jobs and public services, the union will consider supporting candidates or working with others to stand a candidate in national elections.
Examples might be 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.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This is an historic vote giving 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."
Timescale and background:
- PCS members voted in 2005 to set up a political fund for campaigning during election times
- In 2007 PCS ran its first Make Your Vote Count campaign, asking local election candidates where they stood on key issues and publishing responses to members in advance of polling day.
- Since then the union has organised MYVC campaigns during all types of elections - general, local, Scottish parliamentary, Welsh and Northern Ireland assembly, and European
- Following a decision at the union's annual conference in 2009 branches were consulted on the principle of supporting election candidates, and a majority backed the idea. A number of questions were raised about how it would work in practice, so following a decision at 2010's annual conference a second consultation was held
- The results of this were reported to conference in 2011 and a motion passed endorsing the plan and calling for a full membership ballot
- For information and interview requests contact PCS national press officer Richard Simcox on 020 7801 2747 or 07833 978216
- The Public and Commercial Services union represents civil and public servants in central government. It has around 290,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies, and in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich - on Twitter @janicegodrich
- Follow PCS on Twitter @pcs_union