DWP – Pull out all the stops to win the ballot

DWP putting safety at increased risk, Pull out all the stops to win the ballot

If ever there was a ballot we must win, this is it. Let’s be clear – this dispute is about safety. There have been grim predictions from prominent scientists about the prospect of a second wave of Covid-19 in the winter. In these circumstances, it would be very dangerous to extend operating hours in 270 Jobcentres and 21 Universal Credit ServiceCentres from November 30th. Yet – this is exactly what the DWP intends to do.

This is a political decision. We have to send a message back that we won’t let the Government, and DWP, play around with our lives.

This issue affects every Jobcentre member, including those who have opted out of the Employee Deal, and even those who don’t currently work in one of the offices where the employer intends to extend operating hours from 30th November, and every member based in one of the 21 Service Centre sites where the employer wants to extend operating hours.

If you work in a Jobcentre which isn’t immediately affected by the current DWP plans, please be aware – DWP have informed PCS that all Jobcentres, subject to viability, will extend their operating hours at some point in the future.

If you’ve opted out of the Employee Deal, don’t be under any illusion that this issue doesn’t affect you as well. If you are working in an office where the hours get extended, the safety risks increase for everyone in that office, even those who are not working during the extended hours.

Even if it were safe to extend the hours, there is no rational reason to do it. We’ve previously been told the DWP might want to extend operating hours because many people who claim Universal Credit also work, and might not be able to access Jobcentre services during Monday-Friday 9-5, and some other people might prefer to visit Jobcentres on a Saturday due to needing a quieter environment. Neither of these scenarios are issues now, any more than they were issues before the onset of the pandemic.

Management’s latest argument is that there is likely to be another spike in unemployment over the next few months. They claim this means they need to expand operating hours. But that just makes no sense at all. Jobcentre staff have already copedwith 2.5 million extra Universal Credit claims earlier during the pandemic, by changing their working practices. There was no need for extended hours then, and there is no need for them now.

Political pressure

The government’s drive to reopen the economy, no matter the increased risk to safety it causes, is being mimicked by DWP right now.

Left Unity are aware of DWP’s plans to bring more customers in to our Jobcentres in thecoming weeks, we know they intend to reopen medical assessment centres bringing thesick and vulnerable in for assessment, and intend to ramp up of the conditionality and sanctions regime. At a time when infection rates are on the rise and a second spike of Covid is likely, and when the economic crisis will leave millions out of work and companies cutting back or closing altogether, to increase face-to-face activity in our offices and put pressure those on benefits by reinstating the previous hardline benefit regime is disgrace. They are placing the lives of our members and the most vulnerable in society at risk.

It is imperative that we get a good turnout in this consultative safety ballot. Feedback from members is positive. First demanding to know when they were going to receive their ballot papers, and many since eager to tell us they have voted, we are confident we can achieve a high turnout. This will enable the LU led GEC to go back to DWP, tell them our members don’t accept it is safe to extend operating hours from 30th November,or extend services in Jobcentres, and demand once again that they withdraw their plans.

If, at that stage, they still insist on going ahead, we will seriously need to consider holding a Statutory Ballot, which would be a strike ballot. If we wanted to take action as a result of that, not only would we need to have the majority in favour, we would also, due to the Tory anti-trade union laws, have to get at least 50% of members voting in that ballot. We need to be in a position where we’re confident we can achieve that.

For the next ten days Left Unity urge reps and members to pull out all of the stops to deliver a huge turnout and drive out the vote in the consultative ballot. Branches need tocontinue issuing regular updates and reminders to members, urge them to speak to others about the importance of voting, involve PCS Advocates in this process, and find ways to keep checking whether members have submitted their votes.

The relaunched Branch app is a great tool in helping us to do this, and every branch should use it. Meetings of members need to take place urgently if they haven’t already. Some branches have already held successful Zoom meetings, uniting those working in the office with those working at home.

This ballot has to be an absolute priority for all of us. Let’s make sure we win it.


Things are hotting up in the PCS

Things are hotting up in the PCS over the summer as the government tries to push civil servants back into offices and treats us with contempt over our pay rise.

With a national consultative ballot over industrial action in DWP, and a growing number of local strikes and disputes PCS members are fighting back.

Every PCS activist needs to be making plans to support these campaigns and organising meetings for BECs and members to prepare to step up the action.

Government hypocrisy over return to work

Despite parts of the country put back into lockdown, and daily predictions of a Coronavirus second wave, Boris Johnson tried to get a mass return to workplaces from 01 August.

As usual the Civil Service is singled out for attention, with press reports suggesting civil servants are lazy! These are our members who have succeeded in delivering key services either from their kitchen table, or having to continue to travel into work during the pandemic.

There is no practical reason for a return to offices where people have been working from home. This is an entirely political move by the government trying to show that the economy is working.  The NEC will continue to oppose any unnecessary return to workplaces until our 5 tests are met.


Johnson has not succeeded in getting a mass return to offices so far, but we need to organise in our branches and groups so we are ready to resist when the government puts on the pressure.

DWP national ballot ups the ante!

In DWP the GEC has launched a consultative ballot starting on 17 August over the proposal to extend opening hours in offices at a time of pandemic, without our members’ legitimate health and safety concerns being taken seriously. https://www.pcs.org.uk/news/pcs-consultative-ballot-of-jobcentre%C2%A0and-universal-credit-workers-opens-17-august

This is a significant step to show that DWP members are prepared to stand up for themselves and the claimants,  and we need to get all our members on board. Holding members meetings in car parks or on zoom will be key, as well as making sure every member is contacted.

NHS workers lead the pay fightback

NHS workers have been taking to the streets in large numbers over the government pay insult to key workers.

In PCS nearly 40,000 have shared our pay petition, but the next step is to get to 100,000 signatures for a parliamentary debate. https://www.pcs.org.uk/news/pcs-pay-petition-passes-37000-after-two-weeks

Each branch needs a plan for sharing the petition and using your branch app to check who has signed already. Let’s use this as part of the union’s plans to get organised in every workplace and to build our networks at every level of the union.

HMRC cleaners strike back

Liverpool cleaners are back on strike for the month of August, hopefully to be joined by those in Birmingham demanding the Living wage and proper sick pay.

*  e-action to write to HMRC https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/hmrc-meet-with-pcs-members-for-fair-wages-and-conditions

*  Strike fund donations via PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/pcscleanerstrike or to bank details: Ac name: PCS Liverpool/Bootle Campaign Sort code: 60-83-01 Ac number: 20415772

Support the strikes and protests in Culture

Around 1000 PCS members are threatened with redundancy in the culture and heritage sector and we are demanding that either the £1.5bn culture bail out is used to protect these lowest paid jobs or that the institutions join us in demanding more money from the government to save jobs.

After some large protests at Tate and a joint protest on the Southbank, Tate retail members have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and Southbank Centre members are holding an indicative strike vote. Further protests are planned.

* Tate strikes start on 18,19 21 and 22 August and then further extended action, picket lines till 10:30am. Rally on Tuesday 18 and Saturday 22nd 11:30 at Tate Modern

* Messages of support to culturesector@pcs.org.uk

* Donations to PCS Culture hardship fund Sort code 086001 Account no 20169002 or https://www.gofundme.com/f/tate-commerce-strike-fund

Action plan to prepare to step up the fightback

  • Have a BEC and plan members meetings to discuss all of these campaigns.

  • Don’t forget to include a discussion about ‘Black Lives Matter’ and how you are raising at work

  • Support the health workers fighting back over pay

  • Support PCS members on strike in HMRC and Culture and invite them to your meetings

Candy Udwin