Civil service union chief Mark Serwotka to retire after 23 years

PCS general secretary says "serious health issues" contributed to his decision to step down
Mark Serwotka at a PCS strike. Photo: PCS/Andy Aitchison

By Tevye Markson

17 May 2023

The leader of the UK’s largest civil service union will retire in January.

Mark Serwotka, who has been general secretary of the PCS union since 2000, said he had taken health issues into account in making the decision.

The union chief went through a transplant in 2016 after suffering heart failure that left him needing a heart pump to stay alive.

“People will be aware that I have had serious health issues resulting in a heart transplant in 2016. Such issues need to be considered in making decisions about the future,” Serwotka said.

“Taking into account what is right for myself, my family and the union, I have decided that now is the time to announce my retirement.”

Serwotka has been re-elected four times since taking on the role at the turn of the century: in 2005, 2009, 2014 and 2019.

He said it has been “an honour and a privilege to serve as PCS general secretary for 23 years”, adding that is he leaving a union which is “in the best place it has been for many years”.

Serwotka pointed to the union's work in challenging the current Conservative government over job cuts and pay, including its successful industrial action ballots in 2022 and 2023, and the union's sound financial position.

“I have endeavoured to represent PCS members to the best of my ability and to fight for their interests,” he said.

“We have led the way within the trade union movement on challenging the political consensus that working people must accept cuts in their jobs, pay and public services.

“Today PCS is in the best place it has been for many years. We have withstood attacks on our union from Conservative governments and we are now growing. We are winning historically high votes in industrial action ballots which beat the Tory ballot threshold and we have developed an effective industrial action strategy for the future. We have young members coming forward to become a new layer of activists. Our financial position is the best it has been in years.”

The union's strike fund grew by almost £1m between the end of 2021 and the end of 2022, while subscription income grew by £740,000 in the same period, according to its annual finance report.

As well as his PCS role, Serwotka has been a member of the Trades Union Congress's general council since 2002 and its executive committee since 2003. He was president of the TUC in 2019.

Serwotka is also a former civil servant, starting out at the age of 16 as a benefits clerk in 1979, where he joined PCS on his first day. He became a union representative a year later.

A timetable for the election of a new general secretary will follow soon, the union said.

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