Left Unity-led GEC builds campaign to oppose office closures

DWP Group President Fran Heathcote called an emergency meeting of the Group Executive Committee on 16/02/17.

Reports were heard from all of the DWP regional briefings, which had been attended by Fran, Vice President Martin Cavanagh, Asst. Secretary Sam Hall and FTO Charles Law. Site reports were also heard from the GEC reps who were sent to sites where compulsory job losses are possible, something that so far DWP has refused to rule out. At one such site, in Llanelli, PCS members and reps, including Carrie Ann Watkins from the GEC, had already held a public meeting opposing the closure, and the loss of jobs in a deprived area.

Across DWP, union reps are replicating the strong campaign launched by DWP Glasgow and Greater Glasgow branches, opposing the closure of 8 Jobcentres, half of the Jobcentres in the city. In Glasgow, MPs and MSPs turned up to public meetings organised by PCS, and where PCS reps spoke at public meetings organised by political parties and other campaign groups. Members of PCS’ Parliamentary Group, led by Chair, Chris Stephens MP, have consistently arranged for debates in the House of Commons, with questions asked at every opportunity to prove that DWP have not thought through their closure plans. Opposition has now been taken up more generally by MPs elsewhere, and by Welsh AMs – even Tory MPs have openly opposed the closure of some DWP offices.

Fran and Sam, leading the negotiating team on People and Locations, have scored an early success, with DWP conceding specific negotiations about the sites which are most at risk from compulsory redundancies. The GEC agreed a recommendation calling for reps meetings of the sites identified as hotspots, to discuss the Group campaign to oppose any compulsory redundancies.

Left Unity members of the GEC have been vocal about their concerns. Sam Hall, leading negotiations on behalf of members in the Corporate Centre, has repeatedly challenged the behaviour of the DWP, particularly their plans to centralise all work in hubs in England, leaving staff in Wales, in Scotland and in many other parts of England either to leave their job or to lose their specialist job role. This will have a huge impact on grades from EO to Grade 6, and the GEC adopted our proposal to oppose the Corporate Centre hub strategy.

Left Unity GEC members put forward the following points as recommendations, to build the group wide campaign, and the motion was passed.

The GEC agrees the following recommendations as part of our group-wide campaign of opposition to the DWP’s Office Closure programme and the wider Government Estate Strategy.

1. To use the consultation period to build the strongest political and public opposition to office closures that impact staff or public services, especially in the identified hotspots.

2. Call a reps meeting of the identified hotspots to support the bespoke negotiations aimed at reversing these decisions.

3. Organise a lobby of parliament to build cross-party support for our campaign.

4. Organise a group-wide petition against office closures.

5. Press DWP to extend the public consultation period, and the consultation with PCS, highlighting Health and Safety concerns, and to release the full Equality Impact Assessments of all proposed closures before the end of the consultation.

6. Publish a members’ bulletin to assist and support in the 1-2-1 process.

7. To clarify the status and future of each of the transition sites.

8. To oppose the Corporate Centre hub strategy and to campaign for the strategy to be reversed, assisting branches to map members in the Corporate Centre.

9. In the event that DWP do decide to close a hotspot location, the GEC will canvass support for co-ordinated action in those sites.

10. To continue to build a group-wide campaign against office closures that impact public services or our staff, encouraging and supporting branches in campaigning against site closures, up to and including taking industrial action.

11. The GEC will oppose any threat of compulsory redundancies using everything at our disposal, including the possibility of a DWP wide ballot of members against compulsory redundancies.

12. Liaise closely with the National Union to join up with our overarching national Jobs and Office Closure campaign to co-ordinate activity and action wherever possible.

13. Publish a public leaflet for distribution to claimants and in communities highlighting the impact of any closures on both benefit claimants and the communities the offices are in.

14. Use the DWP Group Organising Strategy to work with branches to build our membership density throughout the group and amongst non-DWP staff.

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Elect a fighting, socialist leadership of DWP Group

The key task for 2017 will be the building of a campaign that will defend the jobs of our members, will protect public services and will fight for the social security system which our members want. This is why it is more important than ever for branches to nominate Left Unity candidates. They have a proven track record, winning thousands of permanent staff in DWP in 2016, leading a campaign that has won concessions for union members in Universal Credit, and defeating attempts to privatise Access to Work.

When office closures were announced in Glasgow, PCS Left Unity members of the GEC were in the forefront of a campaign that shocked the government and exposed DWP as being utterly unconcerned with the impact of the cuts to our members and the claimants our members work to help. The sustained media, parliamentary and member-led campaign has the potential to protect our offices. Union members will unite behind a leadership that can build such a fighting response to Tory cuts. That leadership is PCS Left Unity.

You can download the PDF of the leaflet here.

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PCS NEC Elections 2017: Vote for a fighting, democratic leadership

To fight austerity. For a united, militant fightback against staff cuts. To defend our workplaces. Vote for the Democracy Alliance in the 2017 elections.

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DWP GEC challenge Glasgow Jobcentre cuts

PCS reps from the DWP Group Executive Committee met with MPs and MSPs in Glasgow yesterday, to discuss the closure of 8 offices threatened by the Department for Work and Pensions. Representing half of Glasgow jobcentres and affecting thousands of claimants, the closures will force claimants and many staff to travel further to access services, and potentially increase the risk of sanctions. Some claimants have already said publicly they will not be able to afford the second bus many of them will have to take, as reported in the Daily Record.

SNP MPs Natalie McGarry (Glasgow East), Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South), Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) and Chris Stevens (Glasgow South West, and chair of the PCS parliamentary group) attended the meeting, along with Bob Doris (MSP for Maryhill and Springburn) and a member of staff sent by Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North. From PCS, GEC Assistant Secretaries Sam Hall, Dave Semple and Ian Pope attended, as did DWP GEC members John McInally and Kevin McCafferty, all of whom are also members of PCS Left Unity.

PCS reps reported on the impact of closures, discussed by PCS members across the Glasgow sites, on claimants and on staff. In particular, staff had noted that though the employer was promising no loss of jobs now, the consolidation of staff into fewer sites would open opportunities for job cuts by stealth. DWP has set aside money for potential redundancies – and has refused the request of the DWP Group Executive Committee to guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies.

MPs reported on the meeting they had held locally with senior DWP managers. Managers admitted that no Equality Impact Assessment had been completed, to look at how those claiming ESA or others with health conditions will be affected. They also confessed that they had calculated travel distances from different postcodes using google maps, from the centre of the postcode, rather than plotting real journeys. Certainly no one had actually undertaken the journeys to appreciate how much additional time a journey might take, should the closures go ahead. This poor approach will help the government duck public consultation on some of the Jobcentres, as they will argue that people don’t have to travel very far to get to a different Jobcentre.

Both MPs and PCS reps discussed the failure of Universal Credit to deliver a workable “digital” service, and the failure of the government to support those who have difficulty accessing the welfare state through digital channels. With work experience staff in Jobcentres routinely being used as unpaid supervisors and assistants to claimants who cannot use a computer unaided, it’s clear that the real goal of the government is to exclude people from the welfare state by putting as many barriers in the way as possible. Reducing the face to face service – which is the long term goal – will help achieve that.

MPs and MSPs have begun working with PCS to put pressure on the government over this unjustified attack on the most vulnerable in society and those civil servants who support them. PCS DWP group officers meet tomorrow to discuss a campaign of opposition, which Glasgow PCS reps will be attempting to tie in with on-going disputes in local government, aimed at defending Glasgow public services. Members meetings at affected sites begin next week, to discuss with staff what should happen next. Every site that wishes to fight for its future will get the full backing of the Left Unity-led PCS DWP Group Executive Committee. MPs meet with the Work and Pensions Secretary – Damian Green – on Thursday.

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PCS activists turn out to support EHRC pickets

Staff in the Equality and Human Rights Commission are on strike today for a third day. An organisation charged with supporting the rights of the oppressed and discriminated against has decided to make 24 redundancies – of whom 11 are disabled, 9 are BME staff and 9 are trade union reps. See here for more details from the PCS website. In Glasgow, National Vice President John McInally, leading member of PCS Left Unity, turned out with other LU activists, DWP reps and staff from groups like Citizens Advice to support the picket. The strike was absolutely solid, with ten staff outside picketing.

In London, the EHRC will be hosting a “Human Rights Day Reception” at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace; a PCS picket will be in place from 5pm and all members are encouraged to attend and show solidarity. Strike action has already had results; the compulsory redundancies have been delayed – pushed back until the end of January. EHRC continues to have vacancies in the organisation, with some staff already having left on voluntary exit schemes, so staff are absolutely determined that there should be no further redundancies.

Today’s strike in Glasgow is happening on the same day as a strike by ICT workers at Glasgow city council – who face the privatisation of their jobs. Council budgets in Scotland have suffered cuts of more than £1bn since 2010 and face the prospect of another £700 million lost by 2020. Across the public sector in the UK, more than a million jobs have been lost. The recent announcement of 8 Jobcentre closures in Glasgow – soon to be followed in other areas – has shone a spotlight on the extent to which the government is cutting back public services, and raised questions over what the other parties are prepared to do to stop it.

Linking all of these disputes is of critical importance. PCS delegates to TUC conference, including members of the Democracy Alliance-led National Executive Committee of PCS, make this arguments every year. The same arguments are put forward at the Trade Union Coordinating Group, which links up unions that have a desire to fight back against austerity. At every forum available to PCS reps, the demand for a coordinated, national campaign against austerity is put forward. PCS Left Unity will continue to make the arguments for a fighting response to all cuts.

 

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Tory government targets Glasgow communities for cuts

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PCS NEC  and DWP GEC member Ian Pope, Secretary of Glasgow PCS DWP branch and prominent member of PCS Left Unity

The Department for Work and Pensions today announced 8 Jobcentre closures in Glasgow, some in extremely deprived communities. The Jobcentres affected include Castlemilk, Anniesland, Easterhouse, Maryhill, Bridgeton, Cambuslang, Langside and Parkhead. A statement issued by PCS can be found on the union website. These closures form part of the massive attack on the DWP launched by then-Chancellor George Osborne as part of his budget in 2015 and resolutely opposed by PCS members and the Left Unity-led National Executive Committee.

Speaking up for Glasgow, SNP Member of Parliament Angus Robertson challenged Tory spokesman David Lidington at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, from which Theresa May was absent. The full transcript can be read here or a video watched here. PCS, following the announcement at 9:15am this morning, worked through the PCS Parliamentary Group to ensure that MPs could challenge the cuts – because while DWP is planning to cut 20% of their estates nationally, the announcements today cut a full 50% of Glasgow’s Jobcentres.

Closures are due to be completed by March 2018, and today’s announcements begin a 7 week consultation period, to run over Christmas and New Year, during which communities, trade unions, MPs, groups representing claimants etc will all argue that these cuts will be devastating to Glasgow communities, especially in deprived areas. MP for Glasgow North, Patrick Grady, was very clear about the impact on Maryhill.

“How does closing Maryhill jobcentre in my constituency, one of the most deprived parts of the country, help my constituents who want to find a job? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that travelling further to other centres will mean increased costs for people already on the lowest incomes and an increased risk of sanctions? Why do the Government continue to target the poorest and most vulnerable in our society?”

National negotiators from the DWP Group Executive Committee ensured that reps attended all 8 sites to support members. Due to the embargo imposed by the employer, reps had very little time to prepare, however the campaign pack, prepared by GEC officers and issued to branches through Branch Bulletin 82/16, has proved indispensable and resulted in PCS reps making a significant impact in local media – including an article in the Daily Record, and interviews with Ian Pope, chair of the PCS Scotland Committee, Assistant Secretary of the LU-led DWP Group Executive Committee and Secretary of PCS DWP Glasgow Branch with S.TV and on Capital Radio.

A subsequent Members’ Bulletin, MB 64/16, has today been issued to all members in DWP and contains further information about the attack on our Jobcentres.

Across the sites, the first question from many members was, “What about the claimants?” It is clear that the government does not intend to provide any additional support to help claimants travel increased distance to other Jobcentres, should these 8 be closed; this means those who are already subsisting below the poverty line will be expected to fork out the cost of increased travel. It will also mean more travel for some of the hardest to help, such as claimants to Employment and Support Allowance, i.e. those claimants who are not well enough to work.

Staff also have concerns about the suitability of the premises they will be moving to, the extra distances they will be expected to travel, how their personal circumstances – such as childcare needs – will be taken into account when the DWP imposes this change on them. Following discussion with reps about full office union meetings over the next few weeks, and a strategy to oppose the cuts and closures, some staff took the decision to join the union, and at one site two members of staff volunteered to become PCS union reps.

This level of coordination and impact was only possible because the members of PCS in the DWP elect a fighting, socialist leadership – Left Unity – to their Group Executive Committee who will organise members to fight austerity, regardless of what political party is in power, as austerity offloads the burdens of our continuing economic crisis on to working class people instead of the wealthiest 1%. If you wish to become involved in PCS Left Unity, you can print off a join form here.

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Vote “Yes” in national ballot to reject attack on our redundancy rights

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PCS members in multi-national ISS take two-day strike action

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PCS Deputy President and Left Unity member Kevin McHugh, and HMRC GEC and Left Unity member Tracy Boyce bring solidarity to the ISS strike pickets 26/07/16

Multinational company ISS, with profits of £250 million, decided that they could not sacrifice a penny of those profits in order to pay staff the new minimum wage of £7.20 (for those over 25). They began cutting the hours of staff who work on the contract ISS has with HM Revenue and Customs.

The Left Unity-led Group Executive Committee, the elected body of reps that runs the union in HMRC, has repeatedly pressed national management to guarantee a living wage for all staff working on contracts offered to the private sector by the department, but they have routinely refused.

Cleaners from six offices voted for strike action, with 66% participating in the ballot and 100% voting for strike action, and the two day strike began yesterday, on 25th July.

Senior managers from ISS had to be deployed to cover the work of the cleaners, due to the success of the strike. Bootle Taxes and Liverpool City branches are discussing the option of escalating strike action should ISS refuse to reconsider it’s position. A strike report is available on the PCS website.

Members and supporters of Left Unity can donate to the online strike fund.

 

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PCS LU calls on members to support the Bakers’ union battle for Kumaran Bose

The Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) is organising a day of action in support of Kumaran Bose, who was dismissed for speaking out and for organising a union in his workplace. BFAWU have put out a call for support from the wider labour movement, to put pressure on the company, Kettleby Foods, a division of Samworth Brothers, to reinstate Kumaran.

A protest will be taking place at 12.30pm, Sunday 26th June, at Chetwode House, Melton Mowbray (full address is on the attached leaflet).

The BFAWU statement below explains the nature of the attacks by the management team at Samworth Brothers, on their workforce, especially following the raising of the national minimum wage. PCS Left Unity’s National Committee is asking for all PCS activists and members to consider attending the protest against this vindictive employer. The battle to unionise the un-unionised and to support the most precarious workers is one of the key battles of our generation.ClfFv5dXIAAiWvg

Union Activist Sacked in Fight for Union Recognition at Samworth Brothers

Leicestershire-based food giant Samworth Brothers are the owners of Cornish pasty maker Ginsters, as well as being the largest maker of certified Melton Mowbray pork pies. Last year alone they boasted of pre-tax profits of £41.7 million. However, Samworth Brothers also have a long history of funding the Conservative Party. Little wonder then, that they are a decidedly anti-Union business.

With the introduction of the new living wage last April, Samworth’s bosses have cut paid breaks and have ditched premium rates for working unsocial hours and overtime. Workers responded in their hundreds by joining the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, packing a series of huge public meetings when the ‘restructuring’ was first announced in February.

But in a vicious turn-of-events, Kumaran Bose, one of the leading Union organisers who has done much to speak out against the undemocratic nature of the pay restructuring, was sacked on Friday, June 3rd. Kumaran has worked for the company for twelve years with not so much as a blemish to his name or his work record. Despite this, since the dispute began, he has been subjected to a severe bullying campaign from his managers.

Kumaran’s only crime has been his outstanding success in convincing more than 50% of the workers in his factory to join the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union. What his Managers disliked in particular, was his brave decision to stand up for his rights and refuse to accept that he and his fellow workers should be treated so appallingly, and that their families should be denied a decent standard of living.

In a bizarre twist, when Kumaran lodged a formal grievance against his Samworth Management at Kettleby Foods, the company management team responded by embarking upon a retaliatory disciplinary procedure against him, accusing Kumaran of bullying his employers! Worse still, despite the fact that the majority of people at Kumaran’s factory are members of the Bakers Union, the company still refuse to give the Union a voluntary recognition at the site.

A formal appeal against this decision has now been lodged with the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) and the odds are strongly in favor of the workforce that Samworth’s management team will soon be forced by law to give formal recognition to the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union. Local MPs Jon Ashworth and Liz Kendall have also written to the company in protest at what they are doing.

In the meantime, Kumaran’s managers will no doubt continue to use every trick in the book to block their employees’ request and the right to join a union. Workers at the site have told us that although they are disappointed by the sacking of their workmate, they refuse to be bullied or intimidated and will now redouble their efforts to recruit more members and send a clear message to their Tory funding bosses that they will not take ‘no’ for an answer.

We are calling on all fair minded people to support our call for the reinstatement of Kumaran Bose.

Write to Samworth Brothers bosses at Paul.Davey@Bradgate-Bakery.co.uk and demand the reinstatement of Kumaran Bose.

A recent article can be found at:
https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-9aec-Pasty-bosses-sack-low-pay-scandal-whistleblower#.V1k-xx94WnN

Please like and share:
https://www.facebook.com/Reinstate-Kumaran-Bose-506096599591947/

Please follow Twitter @Justice4Kumaran

Ian Hodson

National President
Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
Stanborough House
Great North Rd.
Stanborough
Welwyn Garden City
Hertfordshire
AL8 7TA
07739326010
01707260150
Twitter: @ianbfawu

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PCS Left Unity says VOTE YES on Employee Deal

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You can download the 1-page LU Vote Yes recommendation here.

You can download the 3-page LU Vote Yes explanation for members here.

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PCS Left Unity

Left Unity is a faction within the Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) that is represented at every level of the union, from branches and workplaces to the National Executive Committee. We believe in a democratic and fighting union and have a proud history within PCS and its predecessor unions in delivering for members.

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