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Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/9280

Posted on 14 December 2001 at 13:06 GMT

New Labour's attacks on the benefits system: Workers Fight For Safety

THE HEALTH and safety dispute in Benefits Agency and Employment Service escalates this week with national strike action on 12 and 13 December. The vote in favour of this action demonstrates Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members' determination to secure a safe working environment in Jobcentre Plus offices.

A PCS member

Socialist Party members in PCS welcome this escalation, however we do have real concerns about the PCS national executive committee's (NEC) decision for a return to work for members who have been on strike since September and October.

While members at risk in unscreened offices will continue with indefinite strike action, those members in screened locations will end indefinite strike action on 14 December.

Our concerns are that the NEC decision is not conditional on a return-to-work agreement, so it leaves the strikers unprotected. This position is not acceptable to Socialist Party members.

The return to work at this time means that pressure on management and scab workers will be reduced. The Christmas period is always a difficult time and at some offices management have cancelled Christmas leave arrangements. Therefore strikers will face having leave cancelled.

The run-up to national action should have seen a massive effort from PCS to ensure a successful turn out. Instead efforts have been split between campaigning for the strike action and seeking to negotiate a return to work agreement.

The decision to return some members to work means members receive the message that the union's support is dwindling, while management read the decision as weakness and division amongst the PCS leadership.

Socialist Party members put this to the PCS NEC but were outvoted. The NEC is dominated by the right-wing and these events clearly demonstrate the need for a united Left slate in the forthcoming elections. Only by ridding PCS of the wrecking influence of the right-wing will we be able to fully support members' interests. The Socialist Party in PCS supports Left Unity.

We urge all PCS members to vote for Left Unity candidates in the forthcoming elections for the union's executive committees.

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