Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/346/5753
Department for Work and Pensions
Campaigning Against Low Pay In The Civil Service
THE HIGH level of support for the second two-day strike at Easter by PCS civil service union members over the 2003 pay claim rocked Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) management. They have consistently failed to gauge the enormous anger of staff at an inadequate pay award and the imposition of a discriminatory appraisal system (PDS) designed to institutionalise low pay for years to come.
John McInally, DWP Group Assistant Secretary, personal capacity
PCS members were outraged at the contemptible conduct of New Labour MPs cheering and clapping Chancellor Brown's announcement of 30,000 job cuts in DWP. Members then had to put up with the disgraceful accusation from the DWP Executive Team (ET) that women workers "lack ambition" and that middle managers are an obstacle to change.
PCS members work hard to deliver vital public services to some of the most needy people in society and are sick and tired of the contempt shown toward them by arrogant politicians and bosses alike.
Suspensions of line managers
Suspensions of line managers who are refusing to report on staff under the new appraisal system have led to unofficial walkouts throughout the country, a solid response to this bullying behaviour.
This is an attempt by the ET to provoke members, thereby gaining control of the pace of the dispute. This must not divert PCS from its successful strategy of line managers taking non-co-operation to the point of suspension before complying.
The Left Unity-led Group Executive Committee (GEC) will never recommend a settlement based on acceptance of PDS, it must either be completely withdrawn or radically overhauled. It recognises however that member's eyes are now on 2004 pay and developments on national civil service pay as PCS begins the struggle to get back to national pay bargaining.
The GEC will now present a claim for 2004 but will not accept 2003 nor will it abandon the unfinished business from 2003 - the campaign goes on for a settlement! In recent years management have tried to drag the resolution of pay claims way past settlement dates. This is an ongoing grievance amongst members and the GEC is not prepared to allow it to happen with the 2004 claim.
If management have not reached a settlement on 2004/03 by the settlement date of 1 July, the GEC is recommending members to support a five-day strike. That will have a potentially devastating impact on DWP by effectively closing its operations for a full week.
Consultation on this and whether any further action is needed before the settlement date is now taking place. PCS is taking DWP to the High Court over the introduction of PDS, probably in late May. The press and Parliamentary campaigns go on, members and activists are being urged to contact MPs.
At national level there has been a significant breakthrough on pay. General Secretary, Mark Serwotka and President Janice Godrich have reported to members that the Cabinet Office and Treasury now recognise that the shambles of civil service pay (there are 229 different bargaining units) be dealt with and "improved".
This is the start of a process that may, albeit over a period of time and not without obstacles and conflict, begin to deliver fair pay and a return to national bargaining. PCS hopes to publish before its national conference in June, a joint statement with the Cabinet Office/Treasury that can be endorsed by the union.
These welcome developments put the spotlight on the reactionaries in the DWP ET. If they are serious about a settlement the conditions are there for them to reach it. A start must be made in the 2004/03 settlement to resolving low pay and progression. A reasonable and credible appraisal system must be part of any settlement.
In The Socialist 8 May 2004:
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