PCS union rep urges YES vote in ballot for action

PCS union rep urges YES vote in ballot for action

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As the national ballot opens in the PCS civil service trade union, we have received the following comments from a union rep in Coventry, urging a YES vote.


Ballot papers for the PCS union’s national strike ballot over pay are going out to members starting this week.

Among the most shocking of the facts about civil service pay is that it has fallen by 11.4% – more than other groups across the public sector.

Almost 40% of workers in the DWP – one of the largest groups covered by PCS – are forced to claim benefits to top up their abysmally low pay.

PCS is calling for an increase of 10% with a minimum underpin of £2,400 and a Living Wage of £10 an hour nationally and £11.55 in London.

The ballot papers will go out from March 18th, and it is vital to get as many members to vote. The draconian anti-union laws from the Tories mean that a 50% threshold is needed; although on the ballot last year we didn’t meet the threshold, the anger over pay will not have disappeared.

Alongside the national ballot are smaller groups taking action over working conditions, such as the 2 days of action recently at Wolverhampton and Walsall Universal Credit sites.

This Tory government is weak and divided, and civil service pay has remained dismally low since 2010. A victory in the ballot would not only see members taking action on pay, but give them the confidence to fight against the Tories. I urge all my fellow union members in Coventry and across the country to ensure they vote, and help us build up a strong, militant, democratic and fighting union in our workplaces.

 

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Panorama documentary shows horror of Universal Credit

Panorama documentary shows horror of Universal Credit

The BBC’s Panorama documentary tonight gave a brief glimpse of the appalling experiences of claimants on Universal Credit.

Filmed in Flintshire, the programme focussed on the problems caused by not having housing costs paid directly to landlords.

One claimant ended up with around £4000 worth of rent arrears for his council property, and was one of two people spoken to who ended up facing eviction in the winter months.

Another spoke of having found a possible place to move to nearby – underneath a bridge in the area.

Landlords spoken to were also clear about the failure to have the rent money paid on time, by vulnerable people unable to budget the single monthly payment to cover all their costs.

Council tenants on Universal Credit have more than double the rent arrears than those on other benefits.

Tory minister Alok Sharma insisted that “Universal Credit is working well”, but that is an entirely false claim.

In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, there has been a 52% increase in those needing to use foodbanks.

Panorama also spoke to a single father, who had been forced to live on foodbanks for six months because of an error in his online account reporting.

Universal Credit has “put us in poverty, put us in debt”, and was “very, very stressful” said one female claimant.

Clearly Universal Credit is more than a complete failure; it is an appalling system that means utter misery for those forced to claim it.

The Panorama programme ended on a gloomy note about the many thousands more people across Britain who will eventually have to claim the benefit.

In its current form, Universal Credit is unfit for purpose. It must be scrapped; and this demand must go hand-in-hand with other demands.

• A £10 minimum wage now!

• No to precarious work! Full trade union rights for all workers!

• Proper support for those unable to work! An end to the need to use foodbanks!

DWP u-turn over outsourcing core work to Capita

DWP u-turn over outsourcing core work to Capita

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The below article was written by Socialist Party members in the PCS union.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has ended up doing an about-turn and scrapped plans to outsource some of its core work to Capita.

The original plans would have seen the handling of new claims to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) being instead done by Capita staff, on a much lower salary.

This would have been disastrous for some of the most vulnerable in society – those unable to work due to sickness or disability – for whom ESA is intended. A high proportion of claimants will have mental health issues.

Capita’s previous failure to process Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claims on time led to a backlog being built up – which DWP staff then had to go and help clear!

It is near impossible to avoid hearing the flood of horror stories about the private sectors’ handling of medical assessments for benefit claimants. ATOS – now along with both Maximus and Capita – became notorious for the callous way in which its medical assessors would lie about claimants’ conditions in reports, as well as resorting to ‘tricking’ claimants into failing their assessments.

Among the 4,000 submissions of evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on the assessments, such examples were highlighted as suicidal claimants being asked why they had not already tried to kill themselves, and blind or visually impaired claimants reported as being able to walk dogs they didn’t actually have. It even came to light that some assessors would ask claimants “when they caught” Down’s Syndrome!

Nothing else could highlight so starkly the complete failure of the private sector to properly carry out work that should remain in-house.

This u-turn is of course a victory – but given the context against which it is set, it should only be seen as one step in a series of future victories against this weak, crisis-ridden Tory government.

Their list of climbdowns is almost embarrassing – far from any ‘strong and stable’ rule, replicating the ‘Iron Lady’, we have seen multiple u-turns and defeats, mostly brought from the pressure of trade unions and the seething anger amongst many in society.

From having to scrap employment tribunal fees, making benefit phonelines free, and even being forced to slash the amount of university tuition fees, there are more victories to be won if the pressure remains and increases!

The demand that all essential public service work be brought back in-house where it belongs is vital.

Fill in the form below if you are in PCS and want to link up with Socialist Party members.

Government to press ahead with Jobcentre closures

Government to press ahead with Jobcentre closures

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DWP workers take strike action in Coventry

By a Jobcentre worker and PCS union member

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has disgracefully announced that almost 1 in 10 Jobcentres nationally will be closed. Along with this, two other Jobcentres that were originally meant to stay open are also now due to close.

Of the original 78 Jobcentres earmarked for closure, only 6 will stay open, and 11 of the 80 planned to ‘co-locate’ have been spared – although this is only due to the lack of space in council buildings!

One of the Jobcentres which will close by the end of March next year is Coventry’s Tile Hill Jobcentre – with a government proposal/consultation response stating that it is reasonable for claimants to travel further on public to ‘sign on’, despite the threat of a sanction for missing or being late to an appointment!

The u-turn on the closure of some of the Jobcentres, such as Glasgow Castlemilk, is an example of the potential for victory that can come from a co-ordinated campaign involving trade unions, claimants, and other groups such as DPAC. This mass action is needed across the board to prevent the closure of any more Jobcentres – which will see hundreds of job losses and have a damaging impact on the most vulnerable in society.

Workers at Sheffield Eastern Avenue Jobcentre had a week-long walkout in June, and will be going out on strike between 17-21 July.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“It is utterly disgraceful that DWP is pressing ahead with these closures.

“This Tory government is abandoning unemployed, sick and disabled people, making it harder for them to access the services they need, and putting jobcentre jobs at risk. We will continue to oppose these plans in every way we can.”

The Socialist Party says:

• Oppose all closures! For a mass campaign involving unions, claimants and other groups to end this attack on workers and claimants alike!

May Day in Coventry

May Day in Coventry

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PCS Vice-President John McInally speaking at Coventry May Day rally

As part of protests, rallies and demonstrations around the world to mark International Workers’ Day an event was held in Coventry city centre, organised by Coventry TUC and Coventry against Racism.

As well as local speakers from a wide variety of unions and campaigns, the main speaker this year was John McInally, national Vice-President of the PCS civil service union.

John outlined the current situation facing working class people, and the need to get rid of capitalism and fight for socialism. He pointed out that 100 years ago in Russia, many people would have said it was impossible to get rid of the Tsar. Yet working class people not only overthrew the Tsar, but also capitalism.

Other speakers included Dave Nellist on the history and origins of May Day, a speaker from UCU, an NUT rep, a member of the Indian Workers’ Association, a Socialist Party member calling for solidarity with LGBT people in Chechnya and an activist from Stand up to Racism.

Coventry TUC have ensured that the tradition of May Day is kept alive and hundreds of shoppers will have heard pro trade union, anti racist and socialist arguments. In the coming years this event will grow as the working class begins to find its voice, and rediscovers it’s revolutionary history and the relevance for today’s struggles.

On Monday we will be publishing an article by Dave Nellist in the current issue of The Socialist newspaper on the real origins of May Day.

Tories to cut another £3.7bn from disability benefits

Tories to cut another £3.7bn from disability benefits

The below article was written by a member of the PCS union in Coventry, which represents DWP staff.

The Tories plan to make savings of £3.7bn from disability benefits by reducing the number of people eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) by 160,000.

This is their response to two tribunal rulings from late last year, one of which would mean the same number of “points” on the assessment given to a person needing help with medication or monitoring a condition like diabetes, as well as someone needing help with therapy like kidney dialysis. The other ruling would score someone who struggled to travel independently because of a condition like anxiety the same points as someone who was blind, for example.

Under this government, disabled people are facing a relentless attack – alongside the cuts to PIP, from April 2017 the weekly rate for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for the majority of new claimants will be cut by 28% per week to only £73.10, a pittance for those who need the support!

Shockingly, Conservative Party Chair Patrick McLoughlin claims they give “very generous schemes” overall, as well as stating that in terms of supporting disabled people, they do “very proudly” in this country!

In the face of these attacks, as well as the threat of further cuts and privatisation of the NHS, the programme of Jobcentre closures across the country and the massive cuts to local council budgets, what is needed is a joint campaign of struggle involving trade unions, the unemployed and claimants, as well as those involved in groups such as DPAC (Disabled People Against the Cuts).

This was clearly highlighted in a recent well-attended Coventry showing of I, Daniel Blake, followed by a Q&A session with Ken Loach – with representatives from the PCS, UNITE Community, disabled people and others involved in other campaigning groups.

Tile Hill Jobcentre facing closure

Tile Hill Jobcentre facing closure

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Coventry PCS members in the DWP taking strike action

This article was sent to us by a local member of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents DWP staff.

The DWP has revealed that Coventry’s Tile Hill Jobcentre will be one of the many offices facing closure over the next few years.

This will place more pressure on claimants to travel further and at greater expense to “sign on” – and risk facing sanctions for being late or failing to turn up.

There is also the potential for hundreds of job losses across the country, with Tile Hill being just one of the sites earmarked for closure. Glasgow is facing the closure of 8 out of its 16 Jobcentres. The PCS union, representing civil servants and including staff who work in Jobcentres, has said it opposes all of the planned closures.. PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said the union “will vigorously fight any attempt to force DWP workers out of their jobs”.

The potential for hundreds of job losses comes at a time when there are already drastic cuts being planned for the Civil Service Compensation Scheme – which for many will mean being made redundant on the cheap. The office closures must also been seen in the light of this governments continued attacks on the working class – the brutal cuts in welfare and to local services.

Sadly “The Job Shop” has also been threatened with closure. This is a “double whammy” for people who want to get back into work, as both the DWP and Coventry Council are closing services designed to help them find employment!

A strong campaign including claimants, Jobcentre workers and trade unions is needed to fight sanctions and cuts. The PCS has a proud record of campaigning against welfare cuts.

If we are to ultimately defeat cuts, we need to take on the system which demands them. Capitalism in crisis tries to boost its profits by slashing jobs and wages, and cutting big business tax bills. The alternative is to fight for a socialist society, run for the millions not the millionaires.