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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 August 2006

DWP: Action gets results

STRIKE ACTION by PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has brought management to the negotiating table and forced them to make an offer to settle the dispute.

Jane Aitchison, PCS DWP president, personal capacity

The DWP bosses were surprised by the strong support for the two-day national strike in January but calculated that PCS couldn't deliver again. They tried to take a hard strike-breaking line.

But the even stronger support for the two-day strike in May proved them wrong and convinced New Labour secretary of state Hutton that they had to try to get a deal.

The Socialist Party believes it would be possible to deliver further action.

With hard work the overtime ban will hold. Limited targeted action is also possible, but less effective than national action.

It is clear, however, that shifting the DWP bosses even further would take significant escalation beyond the level so far agreed by conference or members.

General secretary Mark Serwotka and the National Executive Committee are planning a ballot in the autumn for civil service-wide action on job security. So now is the right time to bank the gains PCS members have made.

The offer represents a significant achievement for PCS members in the face of a hostile employer. It increases job security for members by strengthening the negotiating position of the union on redundancy and service delivery.

The job and performance evaluation scheme, PDS, is to undergo a thorough review on the orders of the National Audit Office.

As well as producing immediate gains for members such as greater job security, slashing the length of sickness warnings and getting unpaid special leave back, the offer also opens up the opportunity for PCS to push for more gains in the future.

The terms of the proposed settlement contain review mechanisms that give clear negotiating and consultation rights to PCS on job security, service delivery, attendance management and human resources policy. These, combined with the commitment to renegotiate the hated Employee Relations Framework, strengthen the position of the union and could represent a real turning point for PCS in the DWP.

The real test of the proposed deal is whether it improves the ability of the union to defend members. This deal does that and that is why the DWP group executive is recommending it to the membership.

"We're not robots"

CIVIL SERVICE union PCS members working in Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were on strike on 31 July. Socialist Party members Nick and Sami spoke to strikers in Portsmouth. The strike was over new working practices called LEAN.

The strikers realised that this attempt to increase productivity will be a threat to jobs, especially when the civil service wants to axe 16,000 jobs in HMRC.

One PCS member who had worked in the Cosham offices for 30 years said it had taken away all the skills of the job. There was anger over the lack of consultation and the lack of any measure of its effectiveness. Management at Cosham had resorted to bullying tactics in preparation for the strike, arguing that a strike would threaten the permanent closure of the office.

PCS members responded by holding an impromptu lunchtime meeting, with over 90 attending. Ten people joined the union.

"We're not robots," said one worker. "Every item we process can be different, we work as a team to everybody's strengths." The attempt to treat the civil service like car production lines has not convinced anyone. "Not every enquiry is the same, this is not standardised production."

"If we let them get away with this it will spread across the civil service. I've never seen anything like this. It's the end of a reasonable work environment. This won't mean a better service, the pressure will just mean people cutting corners."

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In The Socialist 10 August 2006:

War and terrorism

Israel out of Lebanon now!

Afghanistan - NATO troops face a resurgent Taliban

Iraq - a country splitting along sectarian lines

Huge protest against the invasion of Lebanon

Police given licence to terrorise

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Fighting to defend the health service

Socialist Party campaigns

Young = exploited

Tommy Sheridan's victory over News of the World

Sinking under a debt mountain

Socialist Party workplace news

DWP: Action gets results

Lincs firefighters fight cuts

Inspiring film of GAMA struggle


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