Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1097/31146
PCS union: Reject longer DWP opening hours
Katrine Williams, vice-president PCS DWP group (personal capacity)
The government's headlong rush to pretend things are getting back to normal is impacting on PCS members working in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The PCS union represents workers doing all sorts of jobs for the government.
All through the lockdown, PCS members have been focusing on the main tasks of paying benefits and supporting the public. This has been done remotely in the main, to help keep both DWP workers and the public safe.
Despite pronouncements that our safety is paramount, the haste in reopening the job centre doors is putting our members at risk. This will be further exacerbated by the government's drive to return to 'conditionality' rules. We are clear that during a recession everything should be done to support the public. We reject the government's harsh welfare regime which is even more inappropriate in the current climate.
The pressure on members will be further increased by government plans to staff offices until 8pm - stretching already stressed workers more thinly to cover longer hours. Management plans to have members working in Universal Credit service centres and larger job centres until 8pm, and on Saturdays.
This is on top of the rejected pay offer of 2.5% being imposed by management that does nothing to address the pay issues in the DWP. And it is poor recompense for working flat out to deal with the huge increase in benefit claims that our members have processed and ensured that the public got paid over the past four months.
The PCS Broad Left Network is a socialist organisation within PCS, in which Socialist Party members participate. PCS Broad Left Network members on the DWP group executive committee have been arguing consistently through the pandemic that branches should be given a lead and supported to mobilise our members.
This is needed to tackle the issues facing our members, but also to demonstrate and bring our collective strength clearly to bear on management at a local level, and increase the pressure in talks at national level so that we can win for our members.
We have been encouraging branches to organise members' meetings in a safe way, to make progress on our demands on the many issues facing our members. And to ensure our workplaces are safe, deal with workload pressures, show anger over pay, and oppose the unsafe reopening of jobcentres.
Failure by the group executive to mobilise our collective strength during the period of the pandemic has undoubtedly emboldened management. This has led to decisions to impose this year's derisory pay increase, press ahead with opening up local offices, and now extending hours.
The group executive committee has now agreed to run a consultative ballot to oppose the extension of operating hours in Universal Credit and Jobcentres. It is vital that we get the highest possible Yes vote in this ballot which begins on 17 August.
A massive Yes vote will send a warning to management, and form the basis of a statutory strike ballot if management refuses to listen to our concerns.
In The Socialist 5 August 2020:
What we think
No going back