Steve West DWP

For DWP Assistant Secretary

I feel privileged to be on the DWP Left Unity slate for a position as a Group Assistant Secretary (A.S.).

I am currently an A.S. with responsibility for negotiations with Work Services and with the Child Maintenance Group. Until recently I have also led negotiations with CFCD.

The priority of the Group has to be the national campaign over pay, pensions, the compensation scheme and jobs. It was crucial that we worked hard during the ballot and managed to overcome the 50% voting threshold set by the current anti trade union laws. I don’t believe it would have happened without the leadership of our Left Unity GEC.

The targeted action within DWP has been tremendously well supported, with extensive media covered, and I congatulate the members on Merseyside and in Doncaster, and the members in Stockport and Bolton who, as I write, are preparing to take extended, targeted action alongside colleagues on Merseyside.

Following the magnificent success of 1st February, we must not delay in announcing further and greater action that involves all members where we have a ballot mandate. That is of course a decision for the NEC, but I want to use this platform to express my view.

Alongside the national campaign, it is essential that we continue pushing the DWP to obtain the best possible working conditions for our members through negotiations.

In CMG, I am pursuing the recruitment of staff to the levels we need, which is over 400. We have had some success, with over 300 being recruited, but have also seen the loss of over 50 experienced CMG colleagues through the employer’s disgraceful decision to close Kirkcaldy office, where I used to work and still have a close affinity with.

There is under-reporting of Unacceptable Customer Behaviour within CMG, which we have been pressing the employer on through the health & safety structures.

In CFCD, there has been recruitment of staff and we have pushed the employer to ensure that staff in other parts of DWP, who are at risk of redundancy, are offered these roles. We have also negotiated an improved risk assessment on the use of stab vests. There are many outstanding grading issues which we are taking up, and we have resolved some successfully.

On Saturday working and working past 5pm in Jobcentres, we have maintained that there is no demonstrable business need. We have successfully pushed the employer to cease Saturday working in Jobcentres which attract work for less than 30 FTE. In recent months there has been an increased level of anger expressed by members who are still being forced to work Saturdays when there is no need to, and we must now consider whether the way forward is to ballot these members for industrial action on the issue.

I am a lifelong socialist and trade unionist. I joined the Socialist Workers Party 40 years ago, when I was 17. In 1984, I started work in Hackney Social Security office and immediately joined CPSA (a predecessor union of PCS). The following year I became a local office rep and since then have held positions at various levels of CPSA, and then PCS.

Over the years I have worked in Hackney, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy, Bristol and am now again based in Edinburgh.

My jobs have been in Social Security offices, Jobcentres and what is now the Child Maintenance Group. I am currently a Work Coach at Leith Jobcentre, Edinburgh.

Being active in the wider working class movement is extremely important to me, and PCS activists must play our part in this. For a number of years I have taken a leading role in Stand Up to Racism (SUtR) Edinburgh, speaking at a number of rallies as a PCS Left Unity member, having been proud to move the motion at PCS Conference which resulted in our union affiliating to SUtR. I am currently helping to build the largest possible attendance af the Resist Racism protest in Glasgow on 18th March. I am on the Edinburgh and Lothians May Day Committee, a delegate to the Edinburgh Trade Union Council, and will going to the STUC Congress on behalf of PCS.

In addition to my A.S. position, I am Secretary of PCS DWP Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders Branch. In the last year I have led a local campaign to save jobs at Bathgate following the employer’s decision not to include the FTA AO staff based at that office within the 6,000 they had decided, following PCS pressure, to make permanent. This campaign was partially successful, with the members being offered permanent jobs at Motherwell.