Civil service’s biggest union names first female general secretary

Fran Heathcote will take over from Mark Serwotka at the helm of PCS from February
PCS general-secretary elect Fran Heathcote Photo: Mark Pinder

By Jim Dunton

15 Dec 2023

The civil service’s biggest union has elected its first female general secretary in the organisation’s 130-year history, following a ballot of more than 170,000 members.

Fran Heathcote, who has served as PCS president since 2019, will succeed Mark Serwotka as general secretary from the beginning of February next year.

Serwotka has been PCS general secretary since 2000, notching up five re-elections after his original ascension. He underwent a heart transplant in 2016 and announced plans to step down from the union’s helm in May this year. The 60-year-old said at the time that his health issues had been a factor in the decision.

Even before results of the ballot for PCS’s next general secretary were announced yesterday, Serwotka’s successor was guaranteed to be a woman in what turned out to be a close race between Left Unity Group candidate Heathcote and Marion Lloyd, of the Broad Left Network.

Heathcote was elected on 10,340 votes to Lloyd’s 9,557. Turnout was 11.5%.

Heathcote said it was a “huge honour” to be elected to lead PCS and pointed to the success of its campaigning over the past 12 months to secure improved pay for all civil servants.

“I was proud to be president of PCS during our successful campaign in 2023 which beat the government's pay policy,” she said. “I am now determined to lead the fight as general secretary to keep driving up our members pay and dealing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

Heathcote also paid tribute to Serwotka’s “fantastic work” for the union over 23 years as general secretary.

Serwotka said he was “confident” the union will go from strength to strength under her leadership.

Heathcote started her career at the then-Department of Health and Social Security in Yeovil in 1993. She is currently an EO employed by the Department for Work and Pensions in Newcastle.

Yesterday’s ballot results also saw John Moloney re-elected as assistant general secretary.

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