Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/231/9247
Management attack civil service safety campaigners
Safety Is Our Priority
THE DEPARTMENT of Works and Pensions (DWP) management has stepped up its campaign against the safety dispute in the Benefits Agency and Employment Service (BA and ES).
Debbie Darracott, member of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and the Socialist Party
DWP chief executive, Leigh Lewis, circulated to all staff an open letter he wrote to the PCS general secretary elect, Mark Serwotka. He criticised PCS for its failure to put forward a set of proposals to resolve the dispute. However he did not mention that PCS have already put proposals to management which management have refused to accept.
The PCS position is clear, safety must be a priority in Jobcentre Plus offices. Management's proposals put staff at risk of assault and injury.
Pathfinder offices (pilots for Jobcentre Plus) are entering their second month of strike action. Streatham and Brent Pathfinder offices have been on strike for eleven weeks and support is growing. PCS members at Makerfield benefits centre voted to take strike action when management decided to use them as scab workers, diverting work from striking offices.
A national ballot for all PCS members in BA and ES, due to have closed on 23 November was interrupted because of administrative problems. The ballot will be rerun and the result should be available on 4 December. The ballot calls for members to take unpaid strike action to demonstrate to management and ministers that safety in Jobcentre Plus offices must be the priority.
Ian McCartney, MP and a minister in DWP, was at great pains to deny that staff in his constituency office have a protective screen which provides a safe working environment. Instead of denying that this screen is in place Ian McCartney should be proud that he is seeking to protect staff from harm.
PCS reps who visited the office insist that the screen is there, which allows staff to ensure that violent constituents are unable to threaten their safety. PCS members in Jobcentre Plus are only asking for the same.
In The Socialist 23 November 2001: