Nearly 300,000 PCS members are
preparing to strike on 5 November in a resolute response to the
Government’s plans to slash jobs in the civil service. Last week,
staff in 42 social security offices, jobcentres and call centres were
told that their offices were closing. Local benefit processing will
cease at 550 sites, to be centralised in large benefit processing
As the news of these closures
emerged – part of a plan to cut over 100,000 civil service jobs –
workers in Manchester and Fife took part in unofficial walkouts in
protest. The ballot for the official action will take place from 1-22
October and we must hope for a decisive majority and a solid strike
which brings the civil service to a standstill.
Make no mistake about the effects of
New Labour’s plan. Dispel from your mind the images from Yes Prime
Minister of civil servants sitting around sipping tea and plotting
to frustrate their minister’s latest idea. The staff who will be axed
are those who deliver benefits like Jobseekers Allowance and Income
Support, sort out pensions and winter fuel payments and calculate tax
credits. This is a huge attack on the provision of public services.
In many areas it is already the case
that when you enter an office to make a claim for benefit you get
directed not to a person but a telephone. However, your claim form
used to be processed by someone in the local office who could answer
your questions. It is now likely to be sent off to a centre miles
away. Equally, if you were looking for work you used to phone a
jobcentre and speak to someone who knew the area and the local
employers. Now we have Jobcentre Plus Direct call centres covering
vast areas so that staff cannot possibly have the same detailed
This is all being done in the name
of efficiency, and of course the three main parties have all engaged
in a public bidding war as to who will sack the most civil servants.
But you cannot make the kind of cuts the Government is proposing
without doing serious damage to the services provided. Some of the
poorest communities in Britain will be hit by the planned office
closures. And inevitably, those staff who are left after the axe falls
will face increased workloads and possible relocation.
Against a backdrop of low pay and
attacks on pension rights and sick leave, PCS members know what is at
stake in this dispute. In the Department for Work and Pensions we have
held three well supported 48 hour strikes over pay this year. Members
have shown that they are prepared to take action and, in Mark Serwotka,
we have a general secretary who is equally committed to the fight.
We need to take our campaign on to
the streets and work with other public sector unions to put the
defence of public services and jobs at the centre of political debate.
Those who pledge themselves to improving services whilst taking a
cleaver to those who deliver them must be exposed for the charlatans
they most assuredly are.
With the agreement of the
President and General Secretary unfortunately PCS is cancelling the
lobby of the Labour Party Conference over the civil service job cuts
as we cannot guarantee the safety of those participating, following
the Countryside Alliance's decision to hold a demonstration at the
We had looked for an
alternative time but unfortunately none were available, particularly a
time when we could guarantee the Countryside Alliance would not also
be demonstrating. However, as an alternative members and those wishing
to protest about the job cuts are encouraged to attend PCS's fringe
meeting later on the Tuesday evening 28 September. PCS's fringe event
is at 5.30 pm on the future of the civil service, in the Thistle
We would like to thank all
members, reps and staff who had been involved in organising the lobby
and apologise for any inconvenience caused, but in the circumstances
PCS believes we had no alternative.