Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/407/4628
New Labour aims to privatise Job Centres
JANICE GODRICH, president of civil service union PCS and Mark Serwotka, the general secretary, called a special press conference at TUC conference to show how far New Labour will go to smash the welfare state.
Mark Serwotka said that a letter from a top civil servant to Margaret Hodge, Minister for work in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), called for plans to be brought forward to "outsource the main bulk of Job Centre work, benefit processing, fraud investigation and incapacity benefits."
Mark said this would make the chaos of the Child Support Agency (CSA) look like a picnic. "It would increase tenfold the problems of the unemployed, benefit seekers and people who depend on the CSA, who already suffered from the privatisation of that agency."
The PCS demands the government disown this report immediately. Otherwise the union will be prepared to "defend its members' jobs and the services they give to the most vulnerable people in society".
Mark also spoke of the campaign to defend civil service jobs and the strike ballot taking place in London DWP offices. "The relocation of jobs from London and the south-east is at the cost of a major fall in services we provide.
"But at the same time the government is preparing to move the Export Credit Guarantee Department from Cardiff to London. It's indicative of the 'don't care' policies of this government."
On pensions, the PCS and seven other unions had forced the government to retreat before the general election: "If they hadn't then one and a half million workers were ready to strike."
If the government try to increase public sector workers' retirement age again, industrial action will "involve dozens of unions and millions of workers".
The PCS is seconding the main pensions resolution at the TUC which calls for maximum unity of all unions in defence of pension rights.
In The Socialist 15 September 2005: