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Tuesday 31 October 2023

Two leading PCS union black activists resign from PCS Left Unity after being told 'We Don't Do Black for Blacks sake'

 Two of our highly respected BARAC representatives, National Officer and founding member of BARAC,  Hector Wesley and BARAC activist Tracey Hylton, who are also both well known, long standing, senior union representatives in the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have today, the final day of Black History Month UK 2023, resigned from the PCS Left Unity grouping they were both members of.

BARAC UK colleagues were shocked and horrified to learn that in response to an expression of one black Left Unity member, expressing an interest in standing for election to a senior position, they were responded to by being told that 'we don't do black for black's sake'  and that this was supported by others. When white candidates put themselves forward they were not told, 'we don't do white for white's sake' so why was the colour of a black person  referred to as a reason not to support their potential candidature, disregarding their knowledge, experience, expertise and ability to do the job? 

Our full solidarity with  our Sister Tracey and Brother Hector,  we are united in struggle always. 

In the resignation statements from them below, they explain the reasons they have resigned and why they will not be re-standing for election to the PCS Union National Executive, a huge loss  to the union.

Hector Wesley

Why I have resigned from PCS Left Unity by Hector Wesley

After 28 years of membership – going back to when I joined NUCPS Broad Left in the 1990s - I have

resigned from PCS Left Unity. This is a decision that I have wrestled with for several months.

However truth be told the events that took place at a meeting of the Left Unity NEC Caucus on 17

May 2023 meant that at some point my departure from PCS Left Unity was inevitable. I will go into

more detail shortly about what transpired that day and subsequently.

I have made the firm decision in the last few days that I will not be voting for Fran Heathcote to be

PCS General Secretary (GS) or for Paul O’Connor to be PCS Assistant General Secretary (AGS). In

these circumstances I must leave the organisation. I do want to make clear that I have not sought or

been made any offers by either the Broad Left Network or the Independent Left, to encourage me to

make this decision. I will not be seeking to join either organisation.

I am currently in my 20th consecutive year as a member of the PCS National Executive Committee.

Earlier this month I advised PCS Left Unity that I did not intend seeking re-election at the end of my

current term of office. It is unlikely that I will change my mind about that.

PCS National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held 17 May 2023

That morning, the PCS NEC met virtually as it usually does a few days prior to PCS Conference. Just

before the meeting broke for lunch, Mark Serwotka announced that he was retiring a year before

the end of his term of office. A few minutes after the NEC broke for lunch, I got a phone call from

Fran. She explained that she had known in advance about Mark’s intention to retire and that she

was intending to stand for PCS General Secretary on a joint ticket with Paul O’Connor for PCS

Assistant General Secretary. I thanked Fran for doing me the courtesy of telling me prior to the Left

Unity NEC Caucus meeting that was shortly about to start.

At the caucus meeting I said that I accepted that Fran was pretty much unassailable in terms of

securing the Left Unity nomination for PCS General Secretary. In respect of PCS Assistant General

Secretary I said that there should be further discussion as I thought that within Left Unity there are a

number of people who are more than capable of undertaking the role. I said that I would be taking

soundings about whether I should stand. I made no reference to my ethnicity when I spoke.

One other NEC member said that I should be considered. However it was clear to me that the vast

majority of those present at the caucus meeting were firm in their support of Paul O’Connor. One

NEC member – who I will not name - stated the following regarding the prospect of me standing for

PCS Assistant General Secretary:

“We don’t do black for black sake.”

I genuinely thought that the person who made this comment misspoke and hence I sought

clarification by posting a message in the caucus WhatsApp group. The person concerned replied

making clear that they didn’t misspeak. Their WhatsApp message was liked by 3 other NEC


I knew then that my days as a member of Left Unity were numbered. While I did not say so until a

few days later, I had come to the view that I was not going to seek the Left Unity nomination for PCS

Assistant General Secretary.

As a longstanding activist I am used to dealing with hostile situations. However I did not expect such

a comment to be made towards me in a meeting like that. It is why it has really stuck with me. I

thought about the comment during the PCS Black Members Seminar which took place a few days

ago. I wonder if the PCS National Executive Committee really will be supportive of some of the

initiatives that were discussed at that meeting.

Left Unity National Committee meetings

On the evening of 17 May the Left Unity National Committee (LUNC) met to discuss the timetable for

the selection of the Left Unity candidates for PCS General Secretary and PCS Assistant General

Secretary. I was content that the process agreed at the meeting was fully consistent with the Left

Unity Rulebook.

In the following days, several LUNC members said they couldn’t stand by what was agreed as they

believed that the opposition were mobilising quickly to confirm their candidates. They thought that

candidates seeking the Left Unity nomination needed to declare by the close of PCS Annual Delegate


The LUNC therefore met again on the evening of 22nd May in Brighton. I explained to fellow LUNC

members that up until this point no communication had been issued by Left Unity to its members

regarding the GS or AGS elections. I therefore could not agree with Left Unity members having less

than 4 days to submit nominations. I believed that members should have at least a week. I then said

that if we are going to accelerate the timetable then we will have to agree that candidates can self-

nominate rather than the usual practice of needing to secure the support of at least one Left Unity


While I was glad that the LUNC agreed with what I suggested, I was conscious that it was not fully in

accordance with the Left Unity Rulebook. I refer to this because several PCS Revenue & Customs

Group Executive Committee (GEC) Members, who resigned from Left Unity recently, told me that

the manner in which Left Unity selected its candidates for PCS General Secretary and PCS Assistant

General Secretary elections was one of the factors in their decision to resign. One GEC member told

me that they did not receive the bulk email issued to Left Unity inviting nominations. They were

therefore surprised when they saw the announcement on the Left Unity website on 30th May that

Fran and Paul had been selected unopposed.

I do regret not sticking with what the LUNC originally agreed on 17th of May.

TUC Black Workers Conference

The day after PCS Annual Delegate Conference 2023, I went to TUC Black Workers Conference as

part of the PCS delegation. Numerous delegates from other unions, approached me unsolicited that

weekend, to ask if I was standing for either PCS General Secretary or PCS Assistant General

Secretary. The reaction I got when I told them that I was not, was interesting. I was gratified that

several senior officials from other unions thought that I was capable of undertaking either role.

During the conference the Chair of the PCS National Black Members Committee asked me why I was

wearing my Arsenal top. I told him that being an Arsenal supporter over the years, I have learned

how to deal with frustration and disappointment and hence I thought it appropriate.



I am a member of Unity, which is an organised group within PCS Left Unity. I do need to express my

gratitude to them for the support they have given me. I appreciate the fact that they were prepared

to support me in standing for PCS Assistant General Secretary.

One of the reasons why I have wrestled with the decision to resign from PCS Left Unity, is that I am

conscious that my resignation will make Unity’s position within PCS Left Unity more difficult. It is

problematic if an increasing number of Unity members are not members of PCS Left Unity.

Candidates Hustings

I firmly believe that if you hold or are seeking high union office you have to be willing to debate your


I do recall that circa 2006 when I attended the Bootle St Johns House Branch AGM as an NEC guest

speaker, fellow NEC member Jake Wilde was also there and I was asked to debate him regarding the

future of PCS. The chair of the branch was Paul O’Connor and he told me that members would find a

debate entertaining.

I had hoped that during the current General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary elections, I

would be similarly entertained. However it seems that I am going to be disappointed. I have seen an

email sent by Paul to the Chair of the PCS London & South East Regional Committee stating that

neither him nor Fran will take part in any further hustings. This has crystallised my intentions as to

who I will be voting for.

The PCS London & South East Regional Committee are trying to organise a virtual hustings meeting

next week immediately prior to the ballot opening. In order to maximise attendance the Committee

asked PCS HQ if an email could be sent to members in the Region including an Eventbrite link they

could use if they wanted to attend. PCS refused this request.

I do commend the TSSA Union. In their recent General Secretary election their union HQ organised a

hustings meeting for the candidates and they have uploaded a recording of the meeting to YouTube.


For me the Fran and Paul campaign have made too many missteps. The motion A50 issue could have

been handled far better. A simple acknowledgment that a mistake was made, would I think, have

dissipated much of the unhappiness. The statement they issued in response to the resignations from

Left Unity within Revenue & Customs was distinctly problematic. For one thing it did lead to further resignations.

I take no pleasure in saying this, but I do believe that Marion Lloyd and John Moloney have

campaigned better. Both in my view have expressed a greater willingness to subject themselves to


I am comfortable in voting for John Moloney to be re-elected as PCS Assistant General Secretary. I

am aware that concerns have been expressed about the stance of the Alliance for Workers Liberty

on several international issues. However the PCS NEC have agreed for a number of years for John to

have the International portfolio.

I believe that John has done a good job in the last few years. The one minor criticism I will make is

that he has undersold some of the achievements that he has made. As an example he recently

secured a concession from the Cabinet Office relating to paid time off for safety reps that I was

previously told by PCS HQ was not possible.

My working relationship with John has been better than it has been with Paul and that is a factor in

my personal decision.

I do have my misgivings about Marion Lloyd and when she approached me seeking my support, I

told her what these are. She is a member of the Socialist Party and I am concerned that were she to

become General Secretary her party will have undue influence over how PCS is run. In response she

said that she thought that I have known her long enough not to be concerned about that.

I have known Marion for decades and while I have had disagreements with her, I believe that I can

take her at her word. Some may think I am naive for saying that and that’s fine.

Deciding to vote for Marion and not Fran has been difficult for me. Given the importance of these

elections, abstaining is not an option for me. On a personal level I quite like Fran and if she is elected

as General Secretary I will congratulate her and wish her well. I have decided to vote for Marion

because in my overall objective assessment I think that she is the better candidate.

The good thing about democracy is that my vote does not have any more weight than that of any

other PCS member. I hope that all PCS members participate of the upcoming elections.

Tracey Hylton

I have decided to resign from Left Unity with immediate effect. 

This is something I have been thinking about for quite a while.

 I have found In recent days, it has been on my mind increasingly more, and I have certainly not made this decision lightly.

I have been uncomfortable regarding the process or lack of real democracy in regards to members having a choice for AGS candidate since May.

 This and other factors, with a heavy heart , have led me to believe at this moment in time leaving is best.

I have just partly chaired the PCS National Black Members Seminar and delivered a Workshop on Passing the Baton. I made it clear that it is crucial to not just have the skills but to have political understanding , and good support networks as a Black Activist. 

Although we are a global majority, in the UK we are still a minority, and thus, we can be held back by numbers alone. Allies are also essential.

 I have seen other brilliant Black Trade Unionists leave in recent years, and I stand on the shoulders of giants. 

I will continue in my activism and my current Trade Union roles, delivering for members as I always have done. 

I was delighted to be re-elected as Vice Chair of the PCS National Black Members Committee last week, and I am fully committed to continuing and increasing my work in this role, and will remain available to offer support and mentoring  to anyone who asks. 

I have not quit. I have stood up. 

I will not be standing for re-election to the NEC next year. However, like many Black Actvists, I still have e many roles inside and out of the union. 

I have not been approached by or agreed to stand for positions on any other slate.

I stand with long time Comrade Hector and it is fitting to leave on the last day of Black History Month 2023.   

Black History Happens Every Day. 
Solidarity to all Black comrades. 
The struggle is real. 

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