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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 May 2019

Build a universal safety net - abolish Universal Credit!

End austerity now, photo Paul Mattsson

End austerity now, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Dave Semple, PCS union national executive committee (personal capacity)

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants are not getting the money they are entitled to - and desperately need - without even knowing.

The Child Poverty Action Group has revealed that errors and cuts are hidden by decision letters which just give a final amount - for six previously separate payments - without showing the working.

Meanwhile, almost two million claimants will be 1,000 a year worse off under Universal Credit, according to Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis.

The government's flagship benefit has a total lack of transparency. Administered by civil servants in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Universal Credit has already been attacked this year by a parliamentary committee for driving claimants into "debt and despair."

Workers in the DWP, thousands of whom either claim or will claim Universal Credit themselves, are well aware of this grim reality.

Members of civil service union PCS took strike action in Wolverhampton and Walsall on 11 and 12 March. One of our key concerns is a lack of staff to deal with the tens of thousands of calls from distressed and vulnerable claimants.

The union has been busy preparing members at other sites to join the strikes - even while running another strike ballot of all members across the civil service to break the Tories' pay cap (see p6).

Since 2010, the Tories have cut more than 30,000 DWP jobs. This includes key areas such as DWP Visiting, which helped vulnerable claimants understand what they are entitled to and sort out problems with claims.

The tide of job losses has mostly been stemmed. But even this year, the government is pushing hundreds of staff out the door - as decisions to close offices, as recently at Balham, really begin to bite. In contrast, PCS wants 5,000 extra staff recruited to ease pressure and help claimants.

Unity

Meanwhile, the government is busy thinking through how best to apply sanctions - withdrawal of benefits - to those claimants who have a job, if they cannot show they are looking to increase their earnings.

These plans, if implemented, will apply to civil servants who claim the tax credits component of Universal Credit. This only underlines the need for unity between claimants and DWP workers, in opposing Universal Credit, and in demanding a genuine, universal safety net for all.

Currently, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka is president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and full-time employees of PCS are or have recently been presidents of the Welsh and Scottish TUCs.

Outside of press releases, the silence of the leadership of the trade union movement has been deafening when it comes to opposing Universal Credit and sanctions.

Only a united campaign by the organised working class, both benefits workers and benefits claimants, including strike action, can guarantee the pushing back of this hated cornerstone of Tory austerity.

PCS needs a socialist leadership to drive this forward. PCS members who want to see this should vote for Socialist Party member Chris Baugh for assistant general secretary, and for the Democracy Alliance slate in the national executive committee elections.

But all workers and claimants have a stake in this. The Socialist Party fights for the trade union movement to take the lead, calling mass mobilisations and building towards joint strikes, to bring this hated Tory government down.

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In The Socialist 1 May 2019:


News

Build student unions and walkouts to fight climate change and Trump!

300 NHS nurse suicides in seven years - fully fund our health service now!

Port Talbot steelworks rocked by an explosion - nationalise the plant to save jobs and lives!

Build a universal safety net - abolish Universal Credit!

Universal Credit disaster behind foodbank rise

Fracking mess


Local elections 2019

Local elections 2019: Time to stand up and fight the cuts!

Wirral Tories raise spectre of Militant

Leicester: No-cuts budget only way forward

Worcester: Fightback against library cuts

Union action needed to fight Tory Derbyshire Council cuts


Workplace news

Valentine victory: School strike beats council cuts

Strike ballot: huge result must launch fightback

Usdaw ADM 2019

Communication workers oppose second EU vote, and back new socialist 'Clause IV' for Labour


International socialist news and analysis

India General election shows crying need for independent socialist alternative

France Telecom: Privatisation in the dock

Scandinavian Airlines walkout disrupts Nordic air travel


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

EU elections: Countering Farage's right-wing Brexit Party

Swansea anti-far right protest

Waltham Forest TUC May Day


Opinion

Knife crime - a product of capitalist misery

The Socialist Inbox


 

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Related links:

Universal Credit:

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triangleLifting the mood

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PCS:

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Civil Service:

triangleStrike ballot: huge result must launch fightback

Chris Baugh:

trianglePCS conference: defeats for union officialdom and steps taken to rebuild a fighting left opposition

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