Following the re-election of a 100% Left Unity DWP GEC this year, at our group conference in May, delegates voted overwhelmingly to support the Left Unity motion EM5 which identified a range of DWP-specific issues where we now have the potential for a dispute with the employer and committed the incoming GEC to a campaign plan.
Members are clear that they’ve had enough of being under-valued and underpaid. Low pay, heath and safety, Attendance Management, Performance Management, compulsory postings, threats to discontinue the AA grade, threats of compulsory redundancy and the threat of privatisation are just some of the many serious issues facing members in DWP.
Pointless staff transfers, compulsory relocations and continued examples of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ shows the desperate need for more staff in DWP Operations. Over recent months PCS has reported more and more enforced moves from one part of the business to the other, then back again, wasting resource on retraining then moving staff again and again around the business in a clear case of panic management.
DWP describe some of these moves as ‘simple lift and drop exercises’. Left Unity negotiators have repeatedly argued that you cannot lift and drop our members and we will not accept it.
Unjustified closures like the one which has led to the dispute at Garston, highlight the nonsense of DWP’s resourcing strategies and the adverse impact that they have on our members’ lives.
The lack of proper consultation in some areas of DWP could lead us quickly into dispute over a range of ongoing health and safety concerns in our jobcentres, as tory policies on conditionality and sanctions become more harsh, and our claimants become more desperate, due to the very real threat of imposed destitution, it is only a matter of time before the increase in violent incidents we are experiencing, leads to someone being serious hurt or worse.
We see continued attacks on our members and the public alike, dressed up as ‘welfare reform’, which in reality, punish the poor for having the audacity to rely on social security.
If the government can persuade the public to accept, through constant villification and humiliation in the media, that the poor are responsible for their own conditions and are to blame for the situation that they find themselves in, then they can continue to drive through cuts and remove support, as demonstrated by the increased reliance on foodbanks and payday loan companies.
As socialists, we defend the welfare state. Left Unity policy is to fight for our members jobs and conditions certainly, but we also believe that it is fundamentally wrong to seek to make a profit out of the poorest and most vulnerable. That is why this government hate us and that is why we have to campaign to defend the sort of society we want to live in.
Privatisation is a massive threat to PCS members. Left Unity opposes all attempts to privatise our work. In November the government handed over DWP shared services to Steria, a company they own a 25% share in. By the spring members in 3 of the privatised sites, many long-serving civil servants, were told that they now face the dole queue.
Steria will offshore the work and have already employed the staff in unregulated countries abroad.This means our personal data, and that of MPs and ministers, will be handled there instead. We will challenge every proposed privatisation and our colleagues in shared services, Steria employees for now, are a stark reminder of why we need to.
We have a huge campaign agenda ahead of us but, working closely with the Left Unity leadership of the national union, PCS members are fiercely determined to stand together to exert the maximum pressure on DWP and the government to engage, make concessions and make DWP a decent place to work.