Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/372/6094
We need more staff not less
ALAN JOHNSON, secretary of state for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was met by a lobby of PCS civil service union members, local trade union representatives and pensioners when he visited the new showcase Acton JobCentre Plus in west London on 22 November.
A letter handed to Johnson, from the PCS DWP West London Branch, points out the dire consequences of the government's proposed cuts to the department. The following are extracts from the letter:
"West London JobCentre Plus currently employs 695 staff. However the planned relocation of work from London, and staff cuts so far identified within this District over the next few months, will result in 70 benefit processing jobs being cut, 38 National Insurance processing jobs being cut, 30 Social Fund jobs being cut, a 50% cut in staff training and HR (human resources) jobs.
In addition the CSA propose to reduce local services by half...
Yet even before these cuts are made... there is overcrowding in some offices, customers have to travel further, customer waiting times have increased, the telephony system and CMS computer system introduced to 'support' JobCentre Plus roll out is totally inadequate to meet the needs of customers and staff.
There ... is no provision for customers to have their enquiries dealt with on a face-to-face basis. Particularly if they are unable to get through to the sixteen separate call centres people now have to phone in order to have their pensions and benefit queries dealt with. This clearly puts customers who do not speak English as a first language at a major disadvantage...
The level of service for some customers is so poor it is causing frustration and tension, sometimes resulting in violence against staff...
Our members want to deliver a good reliable service designed to meet the needs of our local community. However, in order to do this it will require more, not less, locally based staff, and less reliance upon the use of telephony as a means of claiming benefits and pensions.
We are urging you to reverse the government's decision before the situation deteriorates any further."
Campaign for public services continues
TALKS BETWEEN the PCS and civil service managers and ministers are continuing, since the successful strike against job losses and attacks on working conditions on 5 November.
After the last round of talks some concessions have been won. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
"We welcome the constructive nature of the dialogue with the department and trust that it will provide the basis for a civil service wide accord. However, the fact remains, that government cuts of over 100,000 jobs will decimate the delivery of services we all rely on and we will continue in our campaign to protect our public services. Unless we get solid assurances that there won't be future compulsory redundancies in the DWP and elsewhere, the fear is that for many the agreement will merely be a stay of execution. But what this [latest] agreement does do is further undermine the divisive bonus system PDS, which won't be used in the redundancy selection criteria.
As the magnificent show of support in the one-day strike on 5 November showed, our members are prepared and will continue to stand up for public services and the people who deliver them, because at the end of the day decent public service need civil servants to deliver them."
PCS president Janice Godrich added:
"It affords our members some protection but it does not give them the guarantee we need from the government nor the civil service-wide arrangements to ensure no compulsory redundancies. Our campaign goes on."
In The Socialist 27 November 2004:
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