Stop the job cuts

DWP strike ballot:

Stop the job cuts

Vote ‘yes’ for strike action

THE DEPARTMENT for Work and Pensions (DWP) is a service in crisis. It
is not alone – new figures have been released that show 120 million
calls to government help lines have been unanswered in the last three
years. This has resulted in people having to wait for up to eight weeks
for their first benefit payment.

A DWP worker

The DWP is being forced to take the brunt of New Labour’s
treasury-driven cuts programme to the tune of 30,000 job losses (104,000
in the civil service as a whole) and the situation for the workers has
become intolerable.

These cuts are biting hard at their heels every moment of their day,
in the shape of aggressive and unreasonable management. Unreachable
targets are set and used as a stick to beat the staff with. The fear of
compulsory redundancy is always there.

For now mandatory sackings have been avoided through hard discussions
and campaigning by the PCS union. But there is not a single DWP member
who could ever seriously trust the word of this government and the
discredited management on any issue.

Other issues that are degrading the service and demoralising the
staff include:

  • Plans to privatise JobCentre Plus following a leaked document.
  • Senior Whitehall civil servants recently handing themselves a pay
    hike between 88% and 90%.
  • Abuse of jobs and pay. Staff are being forced to perform duties above
    their grade that they aren’t being paid for.
  • A discriminatory pay and performance system that condemns workers to
    unfair quotas where for some the performance pay is marked "unfit for
    any increase at all".
  • The introduction of "lean working" where severely limited training is
    provided and staff are forced to work from scripts on benefit rules they
    don’t understand properly and struggle to explain to claimants.
  • Health and safety laws and regulations being pushed aside to drive
    cost cutting.
  • Workers in call centres suffering acoustic shock from poor headsets
    and other staff suffering poor air quality as overcrowded and cramped
    offices overwork faulty air conditioning systems.

In the face of these vicious and arbitrary policies, PCS has had no
choice but to take a stand and ballot the beleaguered staff for what is
proposed as a two-day strike. Activists are working hard to build
support for the strike.

Horrendous working conditions

DWP STAFF suffer horrendous working conditions and endure a
management system that has used every means possible to sack its most
vulnerable employees, with its sick absence "attendance management

Despite the policy stating each member who has been absent must have
their case dealt with on its own merits, it has contributed to many of
14,500 jobs culled from the department in the last 18 months. The scheme
generates a live penalty after just eight day’s absence in any 12-month

Just three penalties in two and a half-years produces dismissal.

Senior managers have encouraged the disability discrimination act and
"natural justice" to be ignored when giving the sickness warnings.

All along, PCS has asked senior managers to address the cause of
workplace absence and not attack the victims of sickness.

Government blind faith in technology to replace jobs has seen vastly
expensive private contracts produce failing, ill-conceived IT systems
that have been rushed through with little testing.

Blind faith in technology

These expensive flops have generated countless faults. This has often
resulted in staff with already oppressive workloads having to use
complex workarounds. This means large backlogs and chronic stress.

The technology has been heralded by ministers but in reality has made
the service worse for those who work there and the poorest members of
society who rely on it for benefits.

Management attitude has been one of indifference and they are now
making workers with families and caring responsibilities suffer as they
restrict flexible hours to cover a service reduced to breaking point.

This is on the back of the casualisation of the workforce desperately
attempting to meet service demands through overtime.

The government’s response to its own cuts is to throw money at
mistakes, in trying to recover a failing service by introducing a
hapless reward and recognition scheme. These schemes hand out divisive
and selective non-consolidated bonuses under "employee of the month",
"team of the month" and also bonuses for good attendance.

The bonuses are discriminatory and isolate part-time workers (often
women). The workers know that wages are the real reward but department
heads are stubborn. Rewards are also being handed to managers who give
the most "sick warnings", placing staff on the path to the sack.

Tony Blair addressed the TUC in 2004 and said: "Good jobs don’t come
with bad working practice, successful employers don’t succeed by abusing
their employees, quality public services don’t achieve excellence by
undervaluing public servants".

Yes they don’t Tony but DWP staff recognise propaganda from a
neo-liberal governments and they’ll vote YES for strike action for the
protection of jobs and services.

  • The ballot includes those in Job Centres, benefit offices, pensions
    centres and Child Support Agency offices across England, Scotland and
    Wales. It closes on 6 January.