London Mayor opposes DWP office closures

PCS’ DWP group executive committee has received a copy of the letter from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to Damian Hinds, Minister of State for Employment, on the closure of the DWP offices in London. In particular, the London Mayor has opposed outright closure of jobcentres as a failure to “address inequality and tackle disadvantage” in the city.

 

Letter from Sadiq Khan

Letter from Sadiq Khan

The letter echoes the demand put forward by the GEC and taken up by MPs, MSPs, AMs and local councillors to properly assess the impact of closures on the disabled, and to run a proper consultation, though it falls short of the union’s demand to guarantee no compulsory redundancies.

Our Left Unity-led GEC continues to use all avenues to organise and fight against the massive attack on our staff, in Jobcentres, Service Centres and especially the 2,000 corporate centre staff who don’t work in or near proposed “corporate centre hubs”. That there are no hubs proposed in Wales, Scotland or huge swathes of England risks these jobs, and guarantees a huge impact to DWP, if the staff are forced out into other roles, despite being specialists.

The GEC has organised a lobby of parliament on 28th March, and on Saturday, marches and demonstrations will occur in multiple parts of the UK to protest the plans, including Glasgow, Sheffield and especially in Barrow, where 80 staff could lose their jobs if DWP don’t withdraw their proposals. LU member and DWP group President, Fran Heathcote, will be speaking at the rally in Barrow to give the clear message that this GEC is fully opposed to compulsory redundancies and that the employer can be pushed back.

There are 11 hotspots around the UK most at risk of job losses and a reps meeting from these sites has now been called to discuss how to build the campaign.

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Our NHS is not for sale – unions must fight back

NEC members march with the NHS demo, Saturday 4th March 2017

DWP Group Executive Committee members Martin Cavanagh and Angela Grant, and PCS activist Nicola Wild march with the PCS contingent on Saturday’s NHS march.

Written report from PCS Left Unity member Angela Grant
Vote for Angela for NEC and DWP Assistant Secretary

Arriving at the “Save our NHS” demo, I was first in awe, and absolute elation, at our ability to mobilise such numbers whilst workers are still suffering from enforced pay restraint and benefit cuts, not to mention being smothered by a huge blanket of lethargy.  The second thing to catch my notice was the how loudly people were chanting, “our NHS is not for sale”.

Fact is, over 50% of our NHS clinical services have already been sold off to private- for profit – investors.  Some of our GP surgeries are partly privatised; a GP referral might now see us being treated in a clinic that, although still badged NHS, is run by profiteers – and that means that all moneys that should be regenerated by our NHS, reinvested into our services, is being syphoned off into the pockets, and the overburdened bank accounts, of the CEO’s of private companies.

How many of the general public know that?  Not nearly enough!  Nothing on the “News”.

But people “know” from mainstream media that “immigrants are bleeding us dry”. Nothing of immigrants being used to build our health service, the 1948 Government asking Caribbean workers to come bolster our system, helping create the great institution we have today. Nothing of the 73,000 women that presently work in our health service, who were trained in their home countries at no cost to us, who have brought their skills here to save lives in our hospitals.  None of that.

We must change the rhetoric!

To blame immigration is to let this and previous governments off the hook for the heinous decimation of our services, for reducing NHS funding to a point where the system is collapsing and the smoke and mirrors spin allows people to believe private companies are the only way out – pitting our NHS against the private sector in a bid for contracts it can ill afford due to the aforementioned cuts to funding.

Our union’s Left Unity-led NEC continues to take the fight for jobs and services to Government’s door, we have called on other public sector leaderships to stand in solidarity, and the TUC to coordinate action to help us win this war. But, rather than move to action, their lack of response has created a vacuum, a black hole which continues to swallow not just our access to free healthcare, but all of our hard won protections such as social security and even our children’s education, as class sizes rise and money available for school books falls sharply. This year we need to re-elect the fighting leadership of our union, and we need other unions to do the same and join the struggle.

So, why do we march? Because, out there with other unions and campaigning groups, PCS can inform, educate and raise public awareness of the issues at hand. And yesterday we did just that.

We took our banners and our flags to London, gave a show of strength with our brothers and sisters across the movement, and we brought to life the words of Nye Bevan:

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

We’re here, and the fight goes on!

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Mark Serwotka speaks: the time for coordinated action is now

PCS is the outstanding advocate amongst the trade unions for a workers’ movement which is prepared to fight back against austerity. At every point, the elected leaders of PCS have stood up to attack the cuts to public services implemented by the Westminster political caste – and their epigones in council halls and devolved national parliaments. Yesterday was no exception. Thousands of PCS activists – with the full support of their union – joined the demonstration called to highlight the terrible state of the NHS under a pro-privatisation, pro-austerity government. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS, one of the few socialist general secretaries in the trade union movement, spoke to the rally in London.

Mark reiterated the view of the PCS National Executive Committee: that all unions must unite and fight back against austerity, especially against the pay caps imposed by the Tory government. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, under pressure to fund social care and NHS services, has already said that there will be no “spending spree”, and has asked all government departments to find an additional 3-6% of “savings”, i.e. budget cuts.

Meanwhile, councils, at the absolute limit of what they can do without the wholesale shut down of services, have begun to plan for significant rises in council tax. This is just a different way of hitting working class people – instead of taking it out of pay packets directly, through wage freezes and cuts, it will come out as tax. The policy of PCS – proposed by the socialist-led NEC and backed by conference – is that councils should use their reserves instead of cutting services or raising council tax, and should launch mass campaigns to force the government to back down on its austerity agenda. A mass programme of coordinated industrial action would be the most powerful weapon, as part of such a campaign, which would have the support of millions of workers.

Coordinated action by Aslef and the RMT against Southern Rail, on staffing, driver-only trains and health and safety show the scope for action across the private sector too. Mass, sustained, coordinated action that started in the public sector, if nurses, civil servants, council workers and teachers struck together, would not stay there. Hundreds of thousands of shop workers, care workers and other unorganised workers would see the opportunity to rise from the conditions of poverty pay in which they are kept by the bosses.

Pressure on the viciously right-wing, anti-democratic leaders of USDAW and other unions would rise. USDAW is the shop workers union and works in “partnership” with employers like Tesco. However, candidates like Robbie Segal, herself a Tesco shop worker, have run for President of the union and got 40% of the vote. A united campaign in the public sector would almost certainly produce amongst shop workers a demand for the bettering of their appalling conditions and pay. The most right-wing union in the TUC could become the most left-wing.

Demonstrations such as yesterday’s magnificent march in London are a lever. They can raise the confidence of workers to take on the bosses. They also put pressure on union leaders whose strategy is to batten down the hatches and hope for a Labour government. This is not enough – and ordinary members who attended the march yesterday will take away the clear message that more can be done. Members of PCS will know and be involved with the battles across the union, in the civil service – on office closures, for fair pay, for better staffing. What is needed, to decisively win on the issues which affect the whole public sector, is a campaign between the key public sector unions.

Mark also spoke about the terrible and cynical use of the status of EU migrants currently in the UK, as a bargaining chip with the European Union, in order for Britain to get a deal that allows it to stay in the single market.

PCS Annual Delegate Conference endorsed the strategy put forward by the National Executive Committee, in the run up to the EU referendum. Rather than go for an “in” or “out” strategy, the NEC ran a “we inform, you decide” campaign. This recognised the huge division amongst PCS members on the subject. In other unions, some right-wing leaderships decided to back the “In” campaign without members getting a say, much like they did over the Scottish referendum. The NEC position agreed by Conference recognised there were valid arguments on both sides.

For those members leaning towards an “In” position, there was huge fear about a Tory bonfire of health and safety and other regulations, which many member saw as protected by EU legislation. For those leaning towards an “Out” position, the role of the EU in smashing the elected left wing government in Greece and the debt-bondage to which the European Central Bank reduced Portugal, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy were reason enough to leave. What the NEC was absolutely determined to do was challenge the anti-immigrant lies being spewed.

A booklet on Brexit has been produced, which tackles the myths in the right-wing press, about how immigrants and refugees are the cause of the problems faced by British workers. At AGMs across the UK, these booklets have been distributed and have proved very popular. Any rep can get copies by getting in touch with their PCS regional office. The cause of the failing NHS, failing social care services, rising costs of public transport, unemployment and so on rest with government cuts. It rests with Vodafone and the other tax dodgers. It rests with the capitalist class, who sit on piles of money worth billions of pounds, refusing to invest it because it will not bring them profit.

In this way, the richest in the UK – and the world – are choosing private profit before the needs of real people.

Unions must unite and fight against that. Under the Democracy Alliance, which is a coalition of the PCS Democrats with PCS Left Unity, PCS has had a leadership which plays its role,which ensures the union is a lay-led union – run by the members and their elected reps, and which puts the full support of the union behind the campaigns which aim to defend the rights of members at work and in their communities. We urge all members to vote for the Democracy Alliance in the 2017 elections – but to go further as well and JOIN PCS Left Unity, the socialist group in PCS.

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Jobstown: Not Guilty – trade unions must oppose criminal injustice

Members of NIPSA General Council, with President Carmel Gates, join together to show solidarity behind the prosecution of those involved with the Jobstown protest against tánaiste Joan Burton.

One of the crucial things which PCS Annual Delegate Conference does each year, as well as taking the decisions which will ensure our National Executive Committee carries out the will of union members, is remind us all that our struggle – that of labour against capital – is a global struggle. Many delegates regard the international and affiliations section of ADC as a chance to nip out for a quick cigarette – but for many, solidarity with other groups involved in the same struggle, even international groups, could not be more important in the age of Trumpism.

As well as motions on the National Campaign, on jobs, on terms and conditions, on welfare, on equality and on the myriad other issues which affect PCS members in their day to day lives, PCS Left Unity will also be proposing motions on affiliation to Tamil Solidarity and the Jobstown: Not Guilty campaigns. This article explains why, and includes text of the model motion which is being proposed and which we hope all branches will pass, in order to ensure the issue is debated.

What happened in Jobstown?

Setting aside the breathless reporting of large sections of Joan Burton being “trapped in her car”, what actually happened on 15 November 2014? A protest happened. A largely spontaneous protest of a working class community that has taken the brunt of austerity, the worst parts of which are personally associated with Joan Burton – rent allowance cuts, cuts to child benefit and cuts to lone parents allowance more recently.

A community that had previously voted heavily for the Labour Party heard that Joan Burton was in the area and hundreds and hundreds gathered to express their anger, their sense of betrayal, and yes, for all the gnashing of teeth of sections of the media about the word, the political hatred of many towards a figure who symbolised both sell-out and austerity.

The car that Joan Burton was in was met with a sit-down protest as she exited from a graduation ceremony. That took place at the exact point that a foodbank operates, which growing numbers are forced to go to. It was a few minutes drive from a couple who were living in their car. There were eggs thrown by young people – who were separate from the main protest, but who have no less reason to be angry, bearing in mind the forced, underpaid work they’ve been obliged to provide through the now-scrapped JobBridge scheme.

 

Intimidation of women in politics?

The majority of the five hundred people who attended the protest were women. Women were no less scathing and vocal about Joan Burton and the betrayal of working class people by the Labour Party. Many of the things said by men using a loudspeaker that night were echoed by dozens of women. Yet the Irish establishment has attempted to portray the anger shown against Joan Burton as somehow an attack on women in politics. Using this to defend someone responsible for taking food out of the mouths of working class women and their families is disgusting.

After the protest dispersed, in a different part of the community, where clashes between local youths and police are far from irregular, the media filmed a clash in which a brick was thrown. Much like during the Miners’ Strike in the U.K., the media attempted to conflate the two incidents in order t discredit the protesters and back up the claims of kidnapping, intimidation and property damage being hurled at those who had demonstrated against the deputy Prime Minister.

Criminalisation of protest

In February of 2015, the state retaliated. Dawn raids across Dublin saw dozens arrested, including a 16 year old, dragged out of bed. This was not just about the protest against Joan Burton. Up and down Ireland, thousands and hundreds of thousand of people had been protesting the water charges, introduced by the Irish government, and likely to hit all poor and middle-income households very hard indeed. Following the February arrests, the Garda began cracking down on those protesting the installation of water meters. Some police at these protests were even armed.

Since that time, revelations about Operation Mizen have shown that the Irish police, like their UK counterparts, were quite happy to use an extensive network of spies against those exercising their legitimate right to protest. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is widely tipped to resign as pressure over the McCabe scandal, a smear campaign by senior police officers against a Garda Sgt who questioned why political figures were not being prosecuted for offences including traffic violations. The depths of corruption in the police is being widely discussed in the press.

The arrests of 23 protesters, including two women, were not in response to criminal damage or “kidnapping” for the two hour period in which the Deputy Prime Minister and her police were held in their cars – but an attempt to criminalise protest and break political opposition to austerity, expressed by the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit organisations. If the state is permitted to get away with it, it will result in anti-austerity elected representatives who attended the protest being barred from office, such as TD Paul Murphy. It will also mean that future pickets – like the mass picket she at Dublin buss – could be criminalised.

Political policing can be defeated however. The Irish ruling class is split on what to do about the incident. Bringing international pressure to bear can force a retreat from the political prosecutions being mounted by the government. The model motion is below.

This Conference notes that on 21 October 2016, a 17 year old was found guilty of false imprisonment in the Children’s Court in Ireland. He was 15 at the time of the “false imprisonment”, which consisted of participating in a protest against water charges and austerity on 15 November 2014, which resulted in Joan Burton’s (the then Deputy Prime Minister) car being delayed for 2.5 hours in Jobstown in Tallaght in Ireland. There was no allegation or charge against him of any violence. He was recognised by the judge as having led a “blameless life”.

However, the judge found him guilty of false imprisonment and listed the following factors which led him to that conclusion: He sat in front of a car and encouraged others to do so; He participated in a slow march; He momentarily stood in Joan Burton’s way and asked to talk to her; He used a megaphone to chat “No way, we won’t pay.”

It is clear that he was protesting, not kidnapping. Although he was given a “conditional discharge”, meaning that he will not face imprisonment if ‘of good behaviour’ for nine months, the important fact is that he was found guilty of false imprisonment because of participating in a protest. The verdict prepares the way for convictions and imprisonment of 18 adult defendants next year, and a dramatic broadening of the definition of false imprisonment to include many forms of protest. Striking workers could find their picket lines classed as “false imprisonment”;, as could any protesters who engage in a slow march or sit-down protest.

The first trial of adults starts on April 24 with a group of seven defendants charged with “false imprisonment”. One of those is Paul Murphy, a TD (MP) for the Anti-Austerity Alliance. If jailed for more than six months, he will be removed as a TD and the people of Dublin South West (which includes Jobstown) will be denied the democratic choice they made.

This Conference:

  • Condemns the conviction of the 17 year old protester of “false imprisonment”;
  • Recognises that “an injury to one is an injury to all” and this conviction is a threat to everybody’s democratic right to protest and calls for all charges to be dropped against Jobstown protesters.

This conference instructs the NEC to send a message of solidarity and a donation of £500 to the #JobstownNotGuilty campaign and to publicise activities supporting the campaign.

 

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Unite to defend our offices – petition and rally to defend Bishop Auckland

Unhappy, upset, overwhelmed – the concerns of Bishop Auckland staff filled a noticeboard as reps gathered all the worries of PCS members.

Campaign update – Bishop Auckland office

As part of the DWP “People and Locations Programme”, the proposal to close the DWP site at Bishop Auckland was announced to staff on 26 January 2017. Our Left Unity-led Group Executive Committee (GEC) have made their opposition to the closures clear and a campaign is underway to oppose the needless and damaging closures which are clearly based purely on cost, without consideration for the harm that will be done to members and the communities they live in and serve.

It was indicated to staff in Bishop Auckland by management that although there would be a consultation period that the decision was virtually made and that there was little that could be done.

The employer was unable to give any assurances to the members about their future other than to say that they wouldtry to avoid any compulsory redundancies. No assurances were given about which office might be available for them to move to, nor were staff even told whether they would be within travelling time. This means a very real prospect that some staff would have no option than to leave the Department if a suitable office could not be found for them.

Member of Left Unity and PCS DWP Group Assistant Secretary Steve Swainston was on site when the announcement was made. He told members there that the GEC opposed the damaging, pernicious cuts and would fight alongside members to prevent the office closure. He told members that the consultation period was a real opportunity to change the decision and that by working together members, the branch and the local community could campaign to save the office.

After the meeting Steve met with local Labour Councillor Joy Allen to start the process of building the political opposition to the closure. She along with the local Labour MP Helen Goodman are now actively campaigning against the closure. Helen Goodman has raised questions in the House of Commons regarding the proposed closure and the impact of losing these local jobs on the town.

A few weeks later, Steve returned to the site to hold another meeting of union members, in opposition to the closure.
Members collected receipts of their spending in Bishop Auckland to demonstrate their contribution to the struggling local economy which would be lost if the office were to close.  In two weeks the staff had spent over £4,000. This would mean the closure would take over £104,000 from local businesses.
Petitions have been started both locally and on-line which are gathering support from members, their families and the local community. All PCS members, members of other unions and members of the public can sign the petition (click on this link) to show our opposition to the closure. Branch reps and PCS members are planning a rally on Saturday 18th March, to get the support of people in the town.

Local press coverage of the proposed coverage has been extensive, with four articles in the Northern Echo and interviews with the local branch officers aired on the news on the Made in Tyne and Wear channel. Across the UK, PCS reps are making the voice of members heard, through their work with local media, and the GEC has issued guidance to give reps confidence in speaking to the press. Activism like this is crucial to the campaign, and the LU-led GEC has firmly opposed instances where the employer has sought to undermine reps engaged in press work.

The GEC is proposing to unite political opposition to office closures by holding a lobby of Parliament. A reps meeting is also planned, from all of the “hotspot” sites, including Bishop Auckland, to build the widest possible opposition to proposals that risk compulsory redundancies for our members in DWP. By organising staff, our members, to oppose these plans, we can force the employer back, defend public services and defend our jobs.

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Glasgow PCS opposes DWP office closures

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.

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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 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.