On the 5th of January reps in DWP branches may have received a message sent from Craig Worswick, as the Secretary of Greater Manchester branch, calling a reps meeting on 19th January via Zoom. Whilst branches have no mandate to call meetings of other branches, which was pointed out to him by PCS officers, a decision has been made to proceed with the meeting.
In calling for that meeting, and in the subsequent message sent in the name of the branch, a number of inaccurate and spurious accusations have been made about the Left Unity led leadership of the DWP Group, such as an alleged failure to respond to Omicron, staffing and working conditions in jobcentres.
Our members will be well aware of the successes of the GEC throughout the pandemic and see through the false narrative of Worswick and others within his faction, in their attempt to re-write history. They ignore the past two years of action by the DWP group leadership, with Left Unity having been at the forefront of prioritising our members safety alongside branches. Under our leadership we have forced DWP to allow the vast majority of members to work from home, won concessions by negotiating HR/Safety policies that protected members inside and outside the workplace – including the groundbreaking schools policy and a risk assessment to protect our black members – alongside running two ballots resulting in improvements for members in Jobcentres.
They fail to mention the leadership of the group stopping DWP moves to force members back into offices as part of hybrid working in December, or the majority of Fixed Term Appointment (FTA) and Direct Temporary Recruit (DTR) members in the AO grade being made permanent (with an announcement about those in EO grade expected soon) and the additional staff being brought into DWP across a number of directorates, as well as the concessions made by DWP over the requirements for members in jobcentres to hold interviews face to face.
These latest concessions followed a meeting of members via Zoom organised and led by Martin Cavanagh, DWP Group President on behalf of the group, which saw the highest ever attendance for a Zoom meeting in PCS, where we listened to members concerns about the return to the office; and used the brilliant response from members to put pressure on the employer and achieve the concessions over jobcentre face to face interviewing.
The pretext given for calling this week’s unofficial meeting, the lack of action or leadership by the GEC, is nothing more than a sectarian attempt by the Broad Left Network (BLN) to sow division and posture in the lead up to the Group elections later this year.
To call this meeting just when the GEC and the national union are gearing up for a national consultative ballot over pay and pensions is self-indulgence of the worst kind. We all know the importance of winning such a ballot, and the organising required to do so. This move by a politically motivated faction, does nothing to further that and is an unnecessary distraction.
Left Unity members on the GEC have a great track record of delivering for members as highlighted above and in addition to being at the forefront of the campaign for members pay and pensions, we will continue to prioritise the safety of members, their families and the public; carry on fighting for more permanent staff, on top of additional recruitment already secured in many areas of DWP; and lead the campaign against any attempts to close offices in DWP.
Have we achieved everything we want to? No. We want and demand more for our members. Better pay, safer working conditions, more staff to do the job, and job security for our members. But to say this group lacks leadership, or that the Left Unity members of the GEC have not done enough to deliver for members, is the worst kind of revisionism; one that serves only to undermine the union and its achievements, and falsely paints BLN members as a better option.
It is important to remember that those organising this meeting, are not taking this initiative to protect our members’ interests, rather to sow division for factional and electoral advantage. It should also be remembered that they led attempts to sabotage the last national pay campaign for the same reasons
Left Unity will continue to represent you robustly and to fight for your interests. Let’s not allow ourselves to get distracted at a time when unity and focus are so important.