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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