Martin Cavanagh DWP

For DWP Group President 2023

It has been a privilege to serve as DWP President since 2019 and I am standing for re-election based on my track record within our union, representing members at every level, as a socialist and member of PCS Left Unity.

The Left Unity leadership of PCS has been at the forefront of the fightback against the Tories, both through the courts and industrially. We have mounted and won many legal challenges in recent years, including the £3m High Court victory we had against DWP in 2016/17, when I was lead name in our case against the removal of check-off.

In DWP, we have been at the receiving end of this hostile government’s ideologically-driven agenda. One that seeks to hold down our pay, close our offices, reduce staffing and resources, and slash our redundancy terms. As the biggest group in PCS, it was crucial we played a decisive role in the current national campaign, and so I could not have been prouder in leading our group to beat the 50% anti-union threshold in the statutory ballot; doing so for the first time since the legislation came in 6 years ago.

It has been an honour to develop and support the submissions from our group, as part of the targeted industrial action strategy of the Left Unity-led NEC, and a great privilege to stand alongside our DWP members on picket lines in Doncaster, Liverpool and my own branch in Wirral.

Despite the hostility of this government and employer, the Left Unity-led Group Executive Committee (GEC), under my leadership, has continued the fightback for our members and the services they provide. It is our leadership that negotiated a whole suite of policies during the Covid19 pandemic which protected members and their families, while keeping vital services going.

Both the BAME risk assessment, which protected black workers in our department from the disproportionate risk they faced from Covid19, and the Childcare & Carers Policy, which guaranteed priority homeworking or extended paid time off for those caring for young children or the most vulnerable, are now held by the TUC as ground breaking policies; they were created and negotiated by our Left Unity negotiating team, who place equality and diversity at the forefront of what we deliver.

Under my leadership, we also negotiated a range of Health & Safety products which maximised members safety in the workplace. I led our campaign and the consultative ballot of members (in the face of opposition from our opponents in this year’s elections) in Jobcentres and Universal Credit, forcing DWP to withdraw plans for 8pm working in Jobcentres. We further used the result to force the introduction of Work Coach empowerment at the height of the risk to our members and the public.

Despite attempts by the government and DWP to carry on, our leadership also pushed for, and delivered, the first suspension of the conditionality and sanctions regime, protecting both staff and claimants, as well as introducing a fairer, customer focused benefit administration when it was needed the most.

We have continued to build on those successes, and in addition to beating the ballot threshold, during the last 12 months, we negotiated the biggest ever conversion of Fixed Term Appointments into permanent jobs, and the mass recruitment of thousands of new jobs into DWP saw the largest staffing increase in over 20 years, crucial in counter-balancing the historic number of staff leaving DWP.

It is the Left Unity leadership of our group that produced the Pay Testimonies document, highlighting the devastating impact that low pay has on our members, and which I presented to government as President. This is now widely used by both the national union and politicians as a key reference point in the debate on pay.

As a result of our organising strategy, PCS membership has continued to grow in DWP over the last year, culminating in over 1500 new members joining in January, as we continue to play a key role in the national campaign.

There is, of course, much more still to do, whether it be campaigning for more staff, fighting to save offices from closure, or reducing the workloads of our members. All of these issues have to remain a focus for our group, as we also agitate for and develop new areas to put forward for targeted and sustained industrial action, demanding better pay, pensions justice, job security and to fight off the threat to our redundancy terms.

The Left Unity-led GEC, under my leadership, will continue to progress this agenda, built on a platform of membership engagement, as we understand the importance of taking members with us in any action we pursue. Unlike our opportunistic opponents in these elections, who have joined forces to seek to remove Left Unity comrades from leadership, despite having their own serious differences; we will not allow outside influences to dictate the path we take in PCS, nor will we deviate from the path that has been democratically agreed by our members and conference.

We have much still to campaign for and win, but I know a Left Unity-led GEC gives us the best chance of doing just that. Please vote for me as Group President and all the Left Unity candidates in the 2023 DWP Group Elections.