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10 November 2021

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Harsh Tory regime for benefit claimants and workers - we need a union fightback

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PCS member in DWP

The Tory government is driving a harsh regime; both for those on benefits and for our PCS trade union members delivering these vital public services.

Throughout the pandemic PCS members delivered services remotely and safely, as well as providing a face-to-face service for any claimants who could not use the remote channels. PCS health and safety reps pushed tirelessly for everyone's safety to be paramount.

Since April, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ministers have ignored safety and instigated rigid targets on seeing claimants face to face. This has meant dragging both our members and the public back into the jobcentres for no genuine purpose.

People are being crammed into Jobcentres using all the desks, regardless of the Covid-19 risks. The pressure on our Work Coach members (staff who provide one-to-one support for claimants) has been ramped up since April, with now up to 20 mandatory interviews being booked in each day.

There is no scope for our members to tailor the support to what each claimant needs. Many interviews are just ten minutes, which is more about making the individual travel into the Jobcentre and hit a statistical target, rather than allow time for any meaningful support.

The impossible targets bear no relation to what the claimant register is like in the local area and what support is needed. The government is attempting to mask the failure of the money it has thrown at private sector support for the unemployed with targets on Restart referrals.

18-24 year-olds are especially under the spotlight, and booked in for numerous appointments each week, regardless of what would help them find work. In fact, senior managers are putting huge pressure on our members just to get young people claiming Universal Credit onto the Kickstart scheme (where the government funds jobs in the private sector) in preference to them finding a job.

Employers have also jumped at the chance of getting free labour. Tory ministers clearly want the numerous, pointless appointments to set claimants up to fail if they do not attend, as a means to ramp up harsh welfare penalties, like sanctions, to force people off benefits and into any sort of job, however unsuitable.

Thousands of DWP workers delivering services have temporary contracts themselves due to end in June next year. This is to fit in with rosy Tory projections of economic recovery and helps keep the workforce feeling insecure.

The DWP was already massively understaffed before the pandemic, and PCS Broad Left Network members are campaigning for all temporary staff to be made permanent and a recruitment drive to deal with the huge workloads that show no sign of reducing.

There is real potential for joint trade union campaigning in our local communities on what services we need to help people find work, and on the quality of jobs. Workers are getting organised to demand improvements to pay and conditions as the pandemic has exposed how vital workers are.

The Youth Fight for Jobs campaign, initiated by the Socialist Party, can play a key role in campaigning with the young unemployed being targeted by the government, and unite them with the PCS DWP members who want to deliver quality services to the public, and to raise everyone's sights about what is needed.

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In The Socialist 10 November 2021:


COP26

Capitalism's COP26 failure: socialist planning vital

Thousands march in Glasgow and elsewhere to save the planet


Housing

Socialist planning to meet housing need

75 years after the first new town


News

Fight together for a pay rise

Council workers ballot on pay offer that's really a cut

School staff need a pay rise

Harsh Tory regime for benefit claimants and workers

Tories under pressure in bid to remove pension triple lock


What we think

Sleaze and pay a toxic mix for Tories


Socialism 2021

Why I'm coming to Socialism 2021


Workplace news

CWU conference debates political strategy

RMT AGM: Delegates focus on the looming battles

University workers vote for action in two disputes

Sheffield bin workers strike: "End rubbish pay!"

Support for all-out scaffs strike spreads

Weetabix workers escalate action in crunch dispute


International news

Portugal's government falls: Left must adopt a new course


Review

John Barnes on class and capitalism. What's missing?


 

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Related links:

Claimants:

triangleDWP: Demand safe working and more jobs

triangleFilm: 'Sick' - 'They've got people looking in the wrong direction'

trianglePCS: No to DWP management's plans - Yes to action

triangleJobcentre reopening: only union struggle will put safety first

triangleBenefits system being used to force return to unsafe workplaces

Workers:

triangleSomers 'slaughterhouse' Forge

triangleTrade unionists in the USA fighting back

triangleWakefield TUSC - Fighting for low-paid workers and NHS

triangleTrade unions and the fight against council cuts

Union:

triangleWorksop Wincanton logistics workers begin ninth week of strike action

triangleRoyal Mail: Unofficial walkouts precede bigger battle to come on pay and workload

triangleSheffield Just Eat couriers speak about strike

Tory:

triangleIt's my party, and I'll lie if I want to

triangleTory vaccine sacking threat set to deepen NHS staffing crisis

PCS:

triangleDWP reps demand action from PCS leadership

DWP:

triangleJobcentre Coronavirus outbreak leads to reps meeting call

Services:

triangleMutual aid, the welfare state and the fight for a new mass workers' party

Article dated 10 November 2021

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Sheffield Just Eat strikers step up action and hold mass rally, photo by Alistair Tice

Sheffield Just Eat strikers step up action and hold mass rally: Over 100 trade unionists and students in Sheffield rallied in support of the Just Eat delivery drivers on their 31st day of targeted strike action against company pay cuts. Photo by Alistair Tice

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