Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/437/5169
Department for Work and Pensions strike: Defend jobs and services
ONE HUNDRED thousand Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members are being forced to take national strike action. We are fighting against the destruction of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the service it provides to millions of vulnerable claimants.
Katrine Williams, PCS DWP Wales, personal capacity
The management and the government are intent on smashing the service by a massive programme of job cuts and privatisation.
17,000 staff have been cut since 2004. The DWP Select Committee have slated the bad service the DWP provides to the public. But ministers are stating that everything is now fine.
Practically everyone working in the DWP can see this as complete spin. It does not reflect the massive pressure that we are all under.
On my team we have a maximum of three people answering income support calls and queries in Cardiff - a city with tens of thousands of people claiming this benefit. We have to tell members of the public that they cannot get help filling in forms or advice face-to-face in local offices, whatever the circumstances.
This is at the same time as we are surrounded by posters emphasising that customer service is the number one priority in JobCentreplus. Then, whilst we are suffering under unbearable pressure and stress in our work, we face draconian implementation of sickness absence rules. Management are using the rules to harass us into coming into work when we are ill or face disciplinary penalties which could result in us being sacked. It is just a cheap way to cut jobs and bully our members. This puts additional pressure on us as we struggle to provide a service and as a consequence have to face an increasingly frustrated and angry public.
It is hardly surprising that we are determined to push management back to the negotiating table and show our support for PCS by coming out on strike on the 2 and 3 May.
NEW TECHNOLOGY, rather than making our working lives easier, is increasing the pressure on us. Apart from the fact that private companies are making a fortune out of providing inadequate systems - management are also presuming that they can replace essential jobs with these systems before even testing them out properly.
The same work and information is now being handled by numerous members of staff, as the public have to jump through hoops to claim benefits.
The government, rather than learning lessons of the failures of the private-sector involvement in the civil service, is looking to extend their profits by privatising more of our work.
They are looking to have the private sector implement the new incapacity benefit reforms and provide our office services.
It is obscene to think of the private sector, where the driving force is profit, can take on work which provides vital services to those on the lowest incomes.
The union is calling for:
- A halt to job cuts across DWP.
- Job security - a no compulsory redundancy agreement.
- Agreement on a mechanism to set effective staffing levels.
- End to the bullying and misuse of attendance managing procedures.
The Socialist Party says
The Socialist Party gives full support to these workers. They have been forced to take national strike action 11 times in the last three years. We believe that the actions of the DWP management are not just the result of a particularly bad lot of managers, but primarily results from the New Labour government's drive to reduce the public sector to little more than a provider of profitable contracts to the private sector.
Privatisation and job cuts are the central part of the government programme and yet the trade unions that are affiliated to New Labour still continue to pour money into the Labour Party's coffers. We say that it is time the unions break from New Labour and form their own party. A fighting alternative is needed to represent and stand up for the working-class.
See www.cnwp.org for details of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party.
In The Socialist 27 April 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party election campaign
1926 General Strike
Environment: Nuclear power
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis