Thursday, 1 November 2007

Job cuts: claimants go hungry and cattle suffer


PCS last week drew attention to new evidence that shows Government civil service job cuts are damaging the efficiency of various departments.
Currently 270,000 members of PCS are voting in a consultative ballot for national industrial action across the civil service in a campaign against job cuts, below inflation pay and privatisation.
In Scotland it emerged that Stirling Citizen Advice Bureau (Cab) has begun handing out food vouchers because new claimants are going hungry as they wait up to eight weeks to get their benefit paid.
With the nearly 30,000 jobs axed and the closure of over 600 jobcentres and benefits offices across Britain, the union warned that the situation could get worse and echoed Stirling Cab’s fears that up to 22,000 people in Scotland could be in need of emergency help.
Job cuts in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have already led to 21 million calls going unanswered, people having to travel unacceptable distances to get help back in to work, as well as waiting longer to access benefits.
Elsewhere following a report by the Chief Scientific officer on the control of Bovine TB, the union warned that the Government would be unable to act on his advice in using all the options available to contain the disease as it had axed the frontline staff responsible for tackling Bovine TB earlier this year.
The union criticised the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for appearing to base its policy on the control of Bovine TB on cost cutting rather than science.
PCS members are currently voting on further national strike action across the civil service as part of the union’s campaign against job cuts, below inflation pay and privatisation.
The campaign has already seen two strongly supported national one-day strikes this year. The ballot closes on 31st October 2007 and the result is expected to be announced shortly after.
Commenting, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, said: “It is scandalous that people are having to rely on food vouchers because the system is failing them due to arbitrary job cuts and office closures. There is a genuine fear that the situation will only get worse as more job cuts follow and more offices close.
“Added to this you have the Government unable to act on the latest scientific advice regarding the spread of Bovine TB because it has axed frontline staff who control the spread of the disease.
“Job cuts across a number of areas in the name of efficiency are resulting in failing services and limiting the Government’s ability to respond to issues and events. The Government needs to recognise the damaging impact cuts are having by halting further job losses and addressing the union’s concerns on services, pay and privatisation.”
Meanwhile members of the Government’s new Unified Border Force – launched this summer by Gordon Brown as a major counter-terrorism initiative – are complaining they get so little training that the force is undermining rather than strengthening security.
Staff say they are being asked to perform key roles such as passenger profiling with less than three hours’ training.
Customs staff at Purfleet, on the Thames, who have been ordered to search vehicles – work previously done by immigrations officers – say checks have been halved because of lack of preparation.
The new force combines staff drawn from Revenue and Customs, Immigration and Nationality Directorate and UK Visas, the passport agency.
The workers are now supposed to perform each other’s roles with very little training.