PCS last week condemned the Government’s announcement to cut a further 12,000 jobs and the closure of an additional 200 offices in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
The union also accused the Government of a dogmatic approach to the privatisation of the welfare state as it confirmed plans to implement the Freud report in full. With 30,000 jobs already gone and over 600 offices closed in the DWP, the union expressed its deep concern of the impact that further cuts will have on service delivery.
Services to some of the most disadvantaged in society have already suffered as a result of job cuts and office closures, with access to benefits and job seeking help restricted and increasing waiting times for benefits resulting in food parcels being handed out in some parts of Britain.
Accusing the Government of pursing a dogmatic policy of privatisation, the union warned that the welfare state was in danger of being run in the interests of shareholders rather than the people it was set up to help. The union went on to warn that further job cuts combined with privatisation would amount to a huge blow to the morale of staff, who are in a long running dispute over the imposition of a below inflation pay offer, which sees 40 per cent of staff receiving a naught per cent pay rise this year.
The union went on to raise the matter in talks with the Cabinet Office aimed at reaching a negotiated outcome to its national dispute over jobs, services and privatisation.
The union is seeking agreement on the avoidance of compulsory redundancies and measures to protect the workforce in the event of privatisation.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka commented: “This announcement comes as yet another blow to a workforce who have battled to provide a service in the face of swingeing cuts and below-inflation pay increases.
crude cost cutting
“These plans for job cuts and privatisation are purely about crude cost cutting and will do nothing to improve service delivery to some of the most disadvantaged in society.
“The Government, by planning to privatise large chunks of the welfare system, is effectively turning its back on vulnerable members of the public as well as its own public sector workforce, who have consistently outperformed private companies in delivering the lowest unemployment figures in a generation.
“Today’s announcement adds renewed urgency to talks with the Cabinet Office in reaching a negotiated outcome to the union’s national dispute as we seek to reach agreements on compulsory redundancies and privatisation.”
The DWP is not the only civil service department threatened with cuts; the day after the DWP cuts were announced, the Government said that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is to close 35 offices in Wales, Scotland and the North West of England affecting up to 5,000 staff members.
PCS warned that the ability of the department to collect revenues and provide tax advice to the public and local businesses would be further undermined by the closures.
Services are already suffering in HMRC with a drive to axe 25,000 jobs and close over 200 offices, leading to backlogs of post and reports that the department can only chase up those who owe £20,000 or more in tax due to a lack of resources.
Some 15,000 jobs have already been cut since March 2004 and the union fears that skilled and experienced staff will effectively be forced out of a job as they will be unable to relocate or travel to their nearest office. Workers at the Department for transport have already taken strike action last Thursday against below-inflation pay awards and increasing pay inequality.
PCS said that across the Department for Transport there are men and women doing work of equal value yet having unequal pay; we see men and women working at the same pay band/grade yet not having the same pay.
This covers staff in DVLA, DSA, VOSA, VCA, and Highways Agency and the Department for Transport Headquarters.
one day strike
The one day strike hit driving tests, vehicle testing centres, regional centres controlling the flow of motorway traffic as well as the half yearly introduction of new number plates for new cars.
Meanwhile 5,500 PCS members in the Land Registry are being balloted on industrial action over 2007 pay and the imposition of an allowance for district team leaders, funded from the pay remit.
Members have already voted in an indicative ballot to reject the pay offer worth three per cent overall with a two per cent revalorisation, along with the DTL allowance.