Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/524/3878
DWP staff on strike 17-18 March: Fight for a living wage!
PCS workers on strike. Mark Serwotka, (top row, third from left) joins strikers, photo Paul Mattsson
Civil service union PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are livid that management have refused to engage in pay talks. We have already been on strike for two days on 6-7 December. The support for this strike showed the enormous strength of feeling against the imposed three-year pay offer, which means a 0% pay 'increase' for our members this year.
Katrine Williams, PCS DWP Wales secretary, personal capacity
Management have refused to go back to the Treasury for extra money to give our members a living pay rise and refused to negotiate on any of PCS' proposals. So PCS has been obliged to name further strike days on 17 and 18 March, alongside campaigning work to force management back to the negotiating table.
PCS have also included demands on a number of non-pay issues to widen the talks into areas that are of vital concern to our members. These include a demand for a no compulsory redundancy agreement, no automatic warnings for sickness absence, and rights to work flexibly.
All of these are key issues for our members. Despite our employer's aim to help claimants back into work, the DWP is far from being an exemplary employer in the treatment of its own staff.
Between 500 and 800 members are sacked every year for being sick. Senior management put pressure on line managers to give everyone an oral warning after only eight days off sick.
And it has not been lost on our members that this year, when we are not getting a pay increase, the amount of work that we are expected to deliver is rapidly increasing. It is our members who will have to deliver all the welfare reforms planned to be introduced in October.
The new benefit Employment and Support Allowance, which replaces incapacity benefit and income support for those who are sick and disabled, will be introduced. Also with the removal of entitlement to income support for single parents once the youngest child is 12, this will mean over 150,000 single parents will be forced to either sign on as unemployed or as sick in October (with even more affected by October 2010 when the youngest child is seven).
Brown is continuing with the New Labour programme of welfare reforms to put the responsibility and blame onto the individual for being out of work. There are huge targets in the government white paper to get claimants back into work - one million sick and disabled, 300,000 single parents and one million older workers.
There will be an increase in 'work-focused' support to all claimants which will then be linked to an increase in pressure to take work. This is at the same time as a looming recession that will increase the number of job-seekers generally.
But even now, whole parts of the DWP are in disarray with huge backlogs of work. Our sections have been cut to the bone and our members have the frustration of not being able to deliver the services that we want to provide to the public as there's not enough staff.
The government wants to use welfare provision and helping people into work as an election issue. So they had better listen to the demands of PCS members. They need to pay us a living wage and give us the resources and staff to provide the best service we can. PCS members are determined that by sticking together we will get the living wage we deserve.
In The Socialist 12 March 2008:
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Post Office closures
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news
Socialist Party review