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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 May 2017

PCS DWP conference 2017

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servants in the PCS union in Sheffield taking strike action to provide a decent service to claimants

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servants in the PCS union in Sheffield taking strike action to provide a decent service to claimants   (Click to enlarge)

Dave Semple, PCS DWP conference delegate (personal capacity)

The annual conference for PCS members working in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) met on 22 and 23 of May. Across all of the key issues - pay, office closures, staffing, working conditions, welfare - the message that rang out loud and clear was one of total opposition to the Tory government, something echoed by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka in his guest speech.

"Victory for the Tories in June would be a disaster for PCS members" he declared.

On pay, conference debated the key question of what to do about the 17% of members who opted out of the four-year 'employee deal' pay agreement, voted for overwhelmingly by PCS members. 83% of staff opted in to a deal that saw them break the Tory 1% pay cap, but the other 17% were left with 0.25% for each year of the deal.

Left Unity, the broad Left in PCS, led the charge to build a campaign to win more for these and all the other staff - such as higher grades - excluded from the deal.

Conference heard reports from across all parts of DWP. Particularly on office closures, conference united behind the first site to vote for industrial action - Eastern Avenue Jobcentre, Sheffield. Speaker after speaker rose to list the impact of office closures on their community.

Squalid accusations that the union's group executive committee had engaged in secret negotiations to the detriment of members were defeated by the majority of reps who had seen the unstinting efforts to support marches, demonstrations, lobbies and other activities, to fight the closure proposals.

On welfare, conference condemned the changes to PIP, which will see discrimination against those with mental health issues. The changes to the tax credits element of Universal Credit were equally abhorred.

PCS members in the DWP renewed their commitment to fight publicly, politically and industrially against Tory cuts and for a united campaign across unions to beat austerity.

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