Solidarity Magazine » Civil Service http://solidaritymagazine.org Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 PCS and Unite take first action on equalities body http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/pcs-and-unite-take-first-action-on-equalities-body/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/pcs-and-unite-take-first-action-on-equalities-body/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2011 11:05:26 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1551 Continue reading ]]> 6 June 2011 PCS, the largest civil service union and Unite, the largest trade union in Britain and Ireland, are taking their first joint action today to save the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

More than 350 PCS and Unite members who work at the EHRC will be walking out of their offices in Manchester, London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow between 11.30am-12.30pm today (Monday, 6 June). The two unions signed a joint agreement to work together two weeks ago.

The commission wants to more than halve its staff from 460 to 200 within 12 months while retaining many consultants and short term contractors who collectively cost over £6 million a year. The decision is being made to retain these hugely expensive non permanent staff and consultants who specialise in, for example, media relations and PR, while cutting those on the lowest wages who provide direct advice and assistance to members of the public. The commission faces a cut of 68% to its budget compared with that in 2007, when it was first formed.

The government has already announced it is ending the commission’s grant giving function which helps charities, disability groups and community organisations, and it is withdrawing funding for the EHRC’s helpline and a tendering exercise starts in July. The helpline, which received most contacts from disabled people seeking assistance, will not be a continuation of the current service as the government has said it will be a non legal information service, therefore losing its teeth. In addition, regional offices are to be shut and local expertise therefore lost. There has been no attempt by the EHRC to settle and the unions are seeking a meeting with the board. PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka said: “A meeting is urgently needed. We are on the edge of losing our only independent equality and human rights body at the time it is most needed. The commission is in effect being dissolved, not dismantled. We cannot put it back together once the expertise is lost, budget axed and remit cut.” Find out more at www.pcs.org.uk/ehrc

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Coastguard climbdown is a ‘body blow’ for government – Mark Serwotka http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/coastguard-climbdown-is-a-body-blow-for-government-mark-serwotka/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/coastguard-climbdown-is-a-body-blow-for-government-mark-serwotka/#comments Fri, 20 May 2011 09:24:57 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1540 Continue reading ]]> 19 May 2011

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka has described the apparent climbdown over coastguard cuts as a “body blow” for the government and further evidence of what can be achieved by community campaigning.

Speaking as the union meets in Brighton for its annual conference, and a day after delegates voted to ballot a quarter of a million civil and public servants for a strike over cuts to jobs, pensions and pay, Mark said:

“This is a body blow for the government which is reeling from the force of public outrage at ill-thought out plans to slash the life-saving support that coastguards provide.

It is not yet clear what any new proposals will include and there are still battles to be won to maintain vital local services that our members provide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We would expect new plans to be subject to proper consultation and negotiation.

The campaign against these cuts has been inspirational and I am proud of the part our reps and members have played in it. Now is the time to keep up the pressure and show the government we remain united, strong and determined to defeat these cuts.”

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Coastguard climbdown is a 'body blow' for government – Mark Serwotka http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/coastguard-climbdown-is-a-body-blow-for-government-mark-serwotka-2/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/coastguard-climbdown-is-a-body-blow-for-government-mark-serwotka-2/#comments Fri, 20 May 2011 10:24:57 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1540 Continue reading ]]> 19 May 2011

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka has described the apparent climbdown over coastguard cuts as a “body blow” for the government and further evidence of what can be achieved by community campaigning.

Speaking as the union meets in Brighton for its annual conference, and a day after delegates voted to ballot a quarter of a million civil and public servants for a strike over cuts to jobs, pensions and pay, Mark said:

“This is a body blow for the government which is reeling from the force of public outrage at ill-thought out plans to slash the life-saving support that coastguards provide.

It is not yet clear what any new proposals will include and there are still battles to be won to maintain vital local services that our members provide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We would expect new plans to be subject to proper consultation and negotiation.

The campaign against these cuts has been inspirational and I am proud of the part our reps and members have played in it. Now is the time to keep up the pressure and show the government we remain united, strong and determined to defeat these cuts.”

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PCS conference: A quarter of a million public servants to ballot for strike http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/pcs-conference-a-quarter-of-a-million-public-servants-to-ballot-for-strike/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/pcs-conference-a-quarter-of-a-million-public-servants-to-ballot-for-strike/#comments Fri, 20 May 2011 09:23:11 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1538 Continue reading ]]> 18 May 2011

More than a quarter of a million civil and public servants will ballot for a strike over cuts to pensions, jobs and pay, following an overwhelming vote at the Public and Commercial Services union annual conference.

Ballot papers will be issued from next week and the ballot will close mid-June, with the first action possible later that month. The union is working closely with education unions who are also balloting over pensions or have already voted and taken strike action, bringing the total to 750,000 union members.

Delegates speaking in the debate talked about how the coalition government’s policies are wreaking havoc on their livelihoods, their families and their communities, and pledged their commitment to campaign against all cuts.

The government’s slash and burn approach to tackling the budget deficit will throw hundreds of thousands of public sector workers out of work, impose a pay freeze on those that remain, axe vital public services, and undermine hard-won rights such as pensions and redundancy terms.

The government has already made it clear it will implement Lord Hutton’s proposals on public sector pensions, meaning civil and public servants will pay higher contributions and work longer for a lower pension.

The union wants: no detrimental changes to pensions or the civil service redundancy scheme; a strengthening of the Cabinet Office-agreed measures to avoid compulsory redundancies; and an end to the pay freeze and a fair pay rise for all.

The conference agreed to: hold a national ballot in defence of jobs, pensions and pay; and continue to work with other trade unions to co-ordinate action for maximum impact.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“Everything we have ever worked for is under threat – but we know there is an alternative and we are committed to fighting for it and, if necessary, striking for it.

The economic crisis was not caused by our members’ jobs, pensions or pay and it is shameful and wrong that the coalition government is attempting to scapegoat them in its bid to slash and burn the welfare state.”

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Benefit office closures ‘deeply flawed’ as unemployment will rise http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/benefit-office-closures-deeply-flawed-as-unemployment-will-rise/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/benefit-office-closures-deeply-flawed-as-unemployment-will-rise/#comments Fri, 13 May 2011 17:18:00 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1530 Continue reading ]]> 13 May 2011

 

The decision by Jobcentre Plus to close one fifth of its benefit processing offices and call centres has been branded “deeply flawed and dangerous” by PCS.

The announcement today that 17 benefit processing sites and five contact centres will be shut mostly within 12 months, threatening 2,400 jobs, comes at a time when hundreds of thousands public sector workers are expected to lose their jobs, with an anticipated similar knock-on effect in the private sector.

Jobcentre Plus has already cut more than 10,000 staff since 2009 and this latest decision will mean more delays in processing claims.

This comes as ministers are reviewing the jobcentre network as a whole and the union fears there is a risk they will decide to close more jobcentres, particularly in rural areas.

An Office for Budget Responsibility report prepared for the budget in March forecast unemployment will be higher throughout 2012 than it was at the beginning of this year.

Delegates to the union’s Department for Work and Pensions group conference – to be held on Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 May, before PCS’s annual conference which opens the following day – will debate an emergency motion to launch a campaign against the closures.

The first motion to be debated at PCS’s national conference calls for a national strike ballot over cuts to jobs, pay and pensions, and for the union to “work with other trade unions to co-ordinate the action for maximum impact”.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“This is a deeply flawed and dangerous plan that will remove vital support to jobseekers and people claiming welfare at precisely the time the government’s ideological cuts will throw more people out of work.

Instead of cutting jobs, the government should be investing in public services like these to help get people back to work more quickly and help our economy to get back on track.”

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Benefit office closures 'deeply flawed' as unemployment will rise http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/benefit-office-closures-deeply-flawed-as-unemployment-will-rise-2/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/05/benefit-office-closures-deeply-flawed-as-unemployment-will-rise-2/#comments Fri, 13 May 2011 18:18:00 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1530 Continue reading ]]> 13 May 2011

 

The decision by Jobcentre Plus to close one fifth of its benefit processing offices and call centres has been branded “deeply flawed and dangerous” by PCS.

The announcement today that 17 benefit processing sites and five contact centres will be shut mostly within 12 months, threatening 2,400 jobs, comes at a time when hundreds of thousands public sector workers are expected to lose their jobs, with an anticipated similar knock-on effect in the private sector.

Jobcentre Plus has already cut more than 10,000 staff since 2009 and this latest decision will mean more delays in processing claims.

This comes as ministers are reviewing the jobcentre network as a whole and the union fears there is a risk they will decide to close more jobcentres, particularly in rural areas.

An Office for Budget Responsibility report prepared for the budget in March forecast unemployment will be higher throughout 2012 than it was at the beginning of this year.

Delegates to the union’s Department for Work and Pensions group conference – to be held on Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 May, before PCS’s annual conference which opens the following day – will debate an emergency motion to launch a campaign against the closures.

The first motion to be debated at PCS’s national conference calls for a national strike ballot over cuts to jobs, pay and pensions, and for the union to “work with other trade unions to co-ordinate the action for maximum impact”.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“This is a deeply flawed and dangerous plan that will remove vital support to jobseekers and people claiming welfare at precisely the time the government’s ideological cuts will throw more people out of work.

Instead of cutting jobs, the government should be investing in public services like these to help get people back to work more quickly and help our economy to get back on track.”

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On the picket line in Halifax http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/on-the-picket-line-in-halifax/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/on-the-picket-line-in-halifax/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2011 15:14:52 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1487 Continue reading ]]> 18 April 2011

 

History was made today with a first ever picket line at Halifax Jobcentre Plus call centre.That means all 37 centres on strike had a picket line outside.  Despite the loss of a day’s pay PCS lead rep Andy Lucas was in a buoyant mood as he worked hard to increase the numbers striking.

As a crisis loan decision maker he’s experienced worsening conditions since he commenced employment six years ago.

Andy said: “New technology has been employed to set unrealistic times for staff to try and resolve what are often complex problems. The result is, of course, a poorer service for customers. Frustrated, many staff leave and the annual turnover is touching 40%.”

His colleague and fellow PCS rep David Lowry had previously worked in call centres in various parts of the world before starting in Halifax three years ago.

Employees are treated like battery hens. When I started you had an average of 22 minutes to deal with each call, but that was cut to just 17 minutes and 40 seconds

He had no doubt he was doing the right thing in joining the 90% of 180 PCS members, amongst the overall total of 280 workers, out on strike as: “Employees are treated like battery hens. When I started you had an average of 22 minutes to deal with each call, but that was cut to just 17 minutes and 40 seconds.

Unable to cope staff would put down the phone on customers for fear of exceeding the limits for dealing with calls. And yet these are people in crisis such as single mothers with children without food, gas or heating. Staff don’t want to let them down.”

Ensuring that’s the case has become more difficult, as despite “entering negotiations with the honest intention of resolving the problems” management have chosen to cut average times by a further minute reported fellow picket Jane Aitchison, the group president of PCS in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – which includes Jobcentres.

Jane’s convinced those in charge have got it wrong. She reports that wouldn’t be the first time as prior to the ballot “management appeared to believe people wouldn’t vote for action. Then when we won the ballot I think they thought we wouldn’t call it for fear of people not responding.

Today’s events at what has previously been one of the less well organised Jobcentre Plus centres demonstrates that management need to adopt a very different approach. We look forward to them doing so.”

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More than 250,000 public servants to ballot for strike http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/more-than-250000-public-servants-to-ballot-for-strike/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/more-than-250000-public-servants-to-ballot-for-strike/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2011 17:22:50 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1477 Continue reading ]]> 12 April 2011

More than a quarter of a million civil and public servants could be balloted for a strike over cuts to pensions, jobs and pay.

The union’s ruling national executive agreed unanimously today to move to a vote for national industrial action if the government presses ahead with its plans to make public servants pay for an economic crisis they did not cause.

The decision is subject to endorsement of the union’s annual conference which opens on 18 May. If agreed, the ballot would commence the following week with the first strike possible in June.

The union is encouraging it members to attend their branch meetings in the coming days and weeks in advance of the conference debate.

Members of the University and College Union have already taken strike action over pensions and PCS is talking to other unions about co-ordinating ballots.

The union wants: no detrimental changes to pensions or the civil service redundancy scheme; a strengthening of the Cabinet Office-agreed measures to avoid compulsory redundancies; and an end to the pay freeze and a fair pay rise for all.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka wrote to cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell on 21 December 2010 to raise the union’s concerns over these issues and request a timetable for negotiations. Sir Gus did not respond until 8 February and failed to give any assurances or offer any such timetable.

PCS national president Janice Godrich said: “We are committed to ensuring our members have every opportunity to discuss these important issues before our annual conference next month.

We are widely publicising what our NEC will be asking conference delegates to endorse and we’re urging all our members to attend their branch meetings so their reps can fully represent their views.”

Mark Serwotka said:

At least half a million people marched for the alternative on 26 March, and now we are saying we must be prepared to strike for the alternative.

We are talking to other unions and will seek to ensure that any action we take has the widest possible support to put the maximum pressure on the government to end its ideological attacks on people who everyone acknowledges did nothing to cause the recession.”

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Jobcentre call centre staff name strike date http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/jobcentre-call-centre-staff-name-strike-date/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/jobcentre-call-centre-staff-name-strike-date/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 19:27:53 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1471 Continue reading ]]> 8 April 2011

 

Thousands of Jobcentre Plus call centre staff will strike on 18 April after bosses refused to improve working conditions and customer service. In a ballot of the union’s 7,000 members in JCP’s 37 call centres across the country, 70% of those who took part voted for strike action. The turnout was 43%.

Following this strong result, the union agreed not to call any industrial action to allow negotiations to continue. But senior managers have shown little willingness to resolve the dispute.

The action will follow a well-supported two-day strike in January by more than 2,000 workers in JCP’s seven newest contact centres who have been forcibly moved from processing benefit claims to handling enquiries by phone.

The union wants to improve the levels of customer service in call centres; end the target driven culture, particularly by changing the way unrealistic ‘average call times’ are used; and introduce proper flexible working arrangements.

PCS’s Department for Work and Pensions group president Jane Aitchison said: “We are being prevented from providing a good quality service to the public because of unnecessary and unrealistic call centre targets.

We entered into negotiations in good faith because we care about the help and advice we give to some of the most vulnerable people in society. It’s very disappointing that our management didn’t do the same.”

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said:

With unemployment rising and welfare recipients being blamed for an economic crisis they did not cause, it is outrageous that standards are being driven down in Jobcentre Plus.

Instead of punishing people who are claiming benefits through no fault of their own, the government should be investing in our public services to help get people back to work quicker and to help our economy to grow.”

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Hundreds of jobs threatened under 'work' programme http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/hundreds-of-jobs-threatened-under-work-programme-2/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/hundreds-of-jobs-threatened-under-work-programme-2/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2011 15:03:12 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1451 Continue reading ]]> 1 April 2011

New contracts announced today to run the government’s back to work scheme will add hundreds more to the unemployment figures as at least one provider has already issued redundancy notices.  Working Links, one of the successful contractors of the new work programme, is from today sending redundancy letters to almost 600 of its 2,000 workforce, with the threat that more could follow if staff numbers for the new contracts are lower than existing levels.


The company is part funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and has won bids to run the scheme in Scotland, Wales and south-west England.

The union fears similar redundancies from other providers as they prepare for running the work programme from June 2011. Employers, who will be paid billions of pounds in taxpayers’ money to operate the contracts, are only offering statutory minimum redundancy pay and have failed to operate any redundancy avoidance measures.


Work and pensions minister Chris Grayling has said redundancies are premature, and urged providers to look at redeploying staff – although he has refused to take on staff delivering services for people who are disabled and on long-term sickness when his department resumes responsibility for this work at the end of April.

The announcement comes days after the DWP announced it was cutting more than 5,000 jobs from its corporate offices in Sheffield, Leeds and London, as part of wider cuts across the department including from jobcentres.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

It is a bitter irony and a scandal that hundreds of jobs are being threatened by a scheme that is supposedly designed to get people back into work.

This shows that this is not about investing in jobs and our economy, it is about cold, calculated privatisation to allow companies to make their fortunes off the backs of the unemployed and the most vulnerable in our society.”

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