PCS national President Janice Godrich and PCS NEC member Ian Pope spoke at a meeting of the campaign to oppose the closure of DWP offices in Glasgow on Saturday 18th February. Joined by Bobby Young, from the Group Executive Committee of HMRC, and by Chris Stephens MP, chair of PCS’ parliamentary group, all of the speakers slammed the proposals to close half the city’s Jobcentres, announced on 7th December 2016.
Chair of Glasgow Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Peter Hope, also spoke to the meeting, calling on all unions, workers, unemployed and disabled people to unite to fight for a universal social security system and against the Tory government which is determined to dismantle the last vestiges of it. PCS members and reps from Glasgow and Greater Glasgow DWP branches were also present and spoke at the meeting.
The campaign meeting follows public meetings organised at Castlemilk, Langside, Maryhill, Bridgeton and Easterhouse, and meetings of PCS members organised at all 8 Jobcentres plus meetings at the other sites in Glasgow which are earmarked for closure under DWP proposals. The proposals would see the loss of jobs from town centres and deprived areas which depend on them, as work is increasingly centralised.
DWP have sought to reassure staff that their jobs are safe – but staff at many of the locations, including 350 staff in Paisley, don’t know where they are being asked to move to, if their office closes. Already instances of staff being asked to move outside of mobility have emerged at Coatbridge. DWP have given no assurances to service users, that there will continue to be a local DWP presence even if Jobcentres close.
Quite the opposite. DWP Work Services Director for Scotland, Denise Horsfall, appeared in front of a Scottish Parliament committee to say that offices were being closed because they didn’t have suitable facilities for running training courses for the unemployed, or hosting employers. The response to the public consultation on the 8 Jobcentres in Glasgow, submitted by PCS DWP Group, proved decisively that this was not true and that the facilities of many of the offices were better than suggested.
Also at risk from the closures will be the computers claimants use to search for work, or to fill in the lengthy forms needed to claim benefits that people are entitled to. There simply will not be the space at the other Jobcentres for the number of people who need to use computers – and claimants turned up to PCS-organised public meetings to confirm this and to report that other facilities, such as at local libraries, were already over-subscribed, with each individual getting an hour maximum on a computer.
All of this comes at the same time that Citizens Advice Bureau Scotland showed that in the deprived parts of Glasgow, such as Easterhouse and Castlemilk, 7 in 10 claimants do not have access to the internet at home.
Campaigners resolved to build support for the 11th March demonstration, organised by Glasgow Trade Union Council, united behind the demand, “Defend Glasgow Services”, as a way to show the government that attacks on public services will be resisted. There was repeated applause in the hall for those calling on the trade unions to unite and act against government plans to slash public services – whether civil service or local authority.