Defend jobs and services

Department for Work and Pensions strike: Defend jobs and services

ONE HUNDRED thousand Public and Commercial Services union (PCS)
members are being forced to take national strike action. We are fighting
against the destruction of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
and the service it provides to millions of vulnerable claimants.

Katrine Williams, PCS DWP Wales, personal capacity

The management and the government are intent on smashing the service
by a massive programme of job cuts and privatisation.

17,000 staff have been cut since 2004. The DWP Select Committee have
slated the bad service the DWP provides to the public. But ministers are
stating that everything is now fine.

Practically everyone working in the DWP can see this as complete
spin. It does not reflect the massive pressure that we are all under.

On my team we have a maximum of three people answering income support
calls and queries in Cardiff – a city with tens of thousands of people
claiming this benefit. We have to tell members of the public that they
cannot get help filling in forms or advice face-to-face in local
offices, whatever the circumstances.

This is at the same time as we are surrounded by posters emphasising
that customer service is the number one priority in JobCentreplus. Then,
whilst we are suffering under unbearable pressure and stress in our
work, we face draconian implementation of sickness absence rules.
Management are using the rules to harass us into coming into work when
we are ill or face disciplinary penalties which could result in us being
sacked. It is just a cheap way to cut jobs and bully our members. This
puts additional pressure on us as we struggle to provide a service and
as a consequence have to face an increasingly frustrated and angry

It is hardly surprising that we are determined to push management
back to the negotiating table and show our support for PCS by coming out
on strike on the 2 and 3 May.

NEW TECHNOLOGY, rather than making our working lives easier, is
increasing the pressure on us. Apart from the fact that private
companies are making a fortune out of providing inadequate systems –
management are also presuming that they can replace essential jobs with
these systems before even testing them out properly.

The same work and information is now being handled by numerous
members of staff, as the public have to jump through hoops to claim

The government, rather than learning lessons of the failures of the
private-sector involvement in the civil service, is looking to extend
their profits by privatising more of our work.

They are looking to have the private sector implement the new
incapacity benefit reforms and provide our office services.

It is obscene to think of the private sector, where the driving force
is profit, can take on work which provides vital services to those on
the lowest incomes.

The union is calling for:

  • A halt to job cuts across DWP.
  • Job security – a no compulsory redundancy agreement.
  • Agreement on a mechanism to set effective staffing levels.
  • End to the bullying and misuse of attendance managing procedures.

The Socialist Party says

The Socialist Party gives full support to these workers. They have
been forced to take national strike action 11 times in the last three
years. We believe that the actions of the DWP management are not just
the result of a particularly bad lot of managers, but primarily
results from the New Labour government’s drive to reduce the public
sector to little more than a provider of profitable contracts to the
private sector.
Privatisation and job cuts are the central part of the government
programme and yet the trade unions that are affiliated to New Labour
still continue to pour money into the Labour Party’s coffers. We say
that it is time the unions break from New Labour and form their own
party. A fighting alternative is needed to represent and stand up for
the working-class.
for details of the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party.