I’m not entirely sure that the potential merger between PCS and Unite has been confirmed before by any senior figure from either union: until today. Mark Serwotka, head of the PCS, told us in an interview today that he wanted to deepen the “ever closer developing relationship” the pair had formed since signing a co-operation deal a year ago. He also pointed out that his union had a similar deal with Unison which had not gone so well.
There are wider political consequences. While both unions are not in formal merger talks, as Serwotka made clear, any future deal would be of great concern to the Labour party. Why? Because Unite, with about 1.5m members, is the party’s biggest donor. The PCS, with nearly 300,000 members, is a vocal critic of the party for its relatively centrist approach.
Some Labour MPs have already woken up to the possibility that Serwotka could be deputy general secretary of a merged union – and therefore a potential successor to current leader Len McCluskey. That would not necessarily mean an end to Unite’s donations to Labour (there are precedents for having separate political funds in merged unions). But it could make the uneasy relationship between the afiliated unions and Labour much more tense.
Meanwhile the PCS is mulling the idea of fielding election candidates in by-elections and general elections, although this would be limited to just a handful of people. Serwotka wants PCS people to be put up in instances where there are no other candidates from the left.