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New strikes against DWP job cuts
THE DEPARTMENT for Work and Pensions (DWP) Group Executive Committee (GEC) of the civil service union PCS has voted unanimously for a further two days of strike action on 2 and 3 May. This follows the breakdown of talks in the Jobs, Services and Rights dispute.
John McInally, PCS DWP Group assistant secretary and national executive committee
DWP workers took two days of action in January opposing the so-called "efficiency" agenda. This involves widespread change whilst ruthlessly cutting jobs and services and attacking terms and conditions.
15,000 jobs have already gone and the result has been chaos. A recent Select Committee slammed the programme as being poorly planned and seriously affecting service delivery. There are still serious delays in benefit claims but management arrogantly insist there is no real problem.
January's strike forced negotiations but despite initial signs they would attempt to reach a fair settlement, management have not delivered. More pressure must now be applied - they can be made to settle.
The campaign demands may not solve every problem facing members but can make a substantial difference to their working lives:
- A halt to job cuts across DWP.
- Job security - A no compulsory redundancy agreement.
- Agreement on a mechanism to ascertain effective staffing levels.
- An end to the bullying and misuse of attendance managing procedures.
Branches must now build the overtime ban that is already having a major impact. If this was fully effective it would be the equivalent of over 5,000 members permanently on strike! DWP cannot survive without overtime, which is a sign of the state the department is in.
National action initially involving the 90,000 DWP membership is the most effective way to pressurise management but the GEC are also calling for targeted action in business units, regions or, especially, branches were there are local issues within the Group demands.
Recruitment to PCS continues to grow as a result of the campaigning leadership. Members realise the left leadership negotiate hard to achieve concessions but are prepared to take action when there is no other alternative. DWP workers, even many senior managers, have no faith in those 'running' DWP.
Management think they can just press on with their cuts and ignore staff and public alike. But they will not be allowed to get away with this. Politically, industrially and operationally they will be pressurised until they are prepared to reach a settlement.
Tension is building
Branches will now build for 2 and 3 May, more so now because the PCS analysis that cuts would lead to privatisation has been fully confirmed. The core adviser work around the Incapacity Benefit reforms has been "out-sourced" because DWP is too "short-staffed".
No doubt the work will go to whatever company can give Labour the biggest backhander, whether a peerage is part of the deal or not.
Tension is building throughout the civil and public sector. On 13 April members in Customs and Revenue took a tremendous day's action in Scotland against the system that aims to de-skill their work.
On 28 April the Learning and Skills Council will take its first ever one-day strike, in protest at cuts there.
If Labour and management are not prepared to make fair deals with PCS then civil service-wide action must begin to be prepared.
It is time the TUC began to organise effective resistance to the government's cuts and privatisation agenda across all unions. All workers, whether in the public or private sector have a vested interest in defending jobs, services and conditions and stopping and reversing privatisation.
In The Socialist 20 April 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party election campaign
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis