Socialist Worker

Brown axes 40,000 'servants of community'

Issue No. 1894

'Gordon Brown's budget statement signals an attack on the welfare state. You hear about all these unscrupulous employers who sack their workers by text message or e-mail. Well, the government has gone one better and sacked 40,000 civil servants live on TV.

The media portray civil servants as people who wear suits and bowler hats, work in Whitehall and are on £40,000 a year. It's all a complete myth. The overwhelming majority of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff work in frontline services up and down the country. The people who will be losing their jobs will earn £12,000 a year and work in social security offices in Sunderland, job centres in east London and pension centres in Stockport. They are serving the community.

These job cuts will not only devastate the people who lose their jobs, but will impact on the people who use the service-the sick, pensioners, the disabled, the unemployed-the most vulnerable people in society. The Labour government is pulling apart the welfare state. Many PCS civil servants' union members are Labour voters.

This government is an enemy of working people. There is no doubt that Labour wants to smash the union, the PCS, in the DWP. After these job cuts go through where are the staff going to be to deal with 30,000 DWP workers who need to use a job centre? Is it going to be self service?'

Robert Bryson job centre worker, central London

'GORDON BROWN says he is going to bring in a private sector employer to run the merged Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise department. This person will get up to £300,000 performance-related pay a year by ensuring 10,500 jobs go. It sends shivers down my spine. The only way they can do this is by sacking people.

The service is cut to the bone as it is. I can't believe they think the civil service has got too many staff. We've never had enough staff. We have just had to get a new, inferior computer system because we can't afford the Microsoft system any longer.

When tax credits were introduced last year hundreds of thousands didn't receive their credits because the computer system couldn't cope with it. The only people who will benefit from Inland Revenue cuts are bosses. With less staff, more employers will get away with tax evasion. In all my 18 years in the civil service all I've ever known are job cuts and office closures.'

Anna Owens Inland Revenue worker, central London

'PEOPLE WERE very surprised and angry last Wednesday. All the workers are very dedicated, but they don't get respect from the employers or the government. We aren't pen pushers. The government ministers are the real pen pushers. We work day in and day out. We take abuse. I can't believe what the newspapers say about us.

I don't know how management will get rid of 40,000 staff and provide a service to the public. Redeploying jobs outside of London means that pensioners will have to phone call centres for any enquiries.

They could be on the phone for 45 minutes and still not get what they want. Pensioners should be able to meet somebody face to face to sort out any problems.

Two years ago benefit office and job centre workers struck to preserve screens in offices because of concerns about violent claimants and security. Ministers said they wanted to get rid of screens to keep face to face meetings. Where's their commitment to face to face meetings now? People will have to speak to a stranger on the phone.

If you redeploy jobs from London it also means a lot of people from ethnic minorities, who make up most of the employees in London, will lose their jobs.'

Oli Rahman job centre worker, east London

'BROWN'S announcement was absolutely disgusting. We deliver income support for single parents, milk tokens and other benefits. Job centres help people find work. We help older people get their pensions. The government have wasted £7 billion on war yet Gordon Brown can only repeat the neo-liberal mantra that he can't raise taxes on the rich to pay for services.

We saw a budget speech pitched to win votes at the next general election using civil servants as dogs to be kicked.'

Paul Murphy, benefits office worker, north London

'ONE OF the first things they have announced since Brown's budget is that they have stopped recruitment to the lowest grade positions in the job centres. These are people delivering frontline services to the public that are being cut. And it is an attack on the lowest paid workers because they will have to do the extra work when vacant posts aren't filled.

But there has been no holding back in recruiting to the highest grade jobs. It is unbelievable that the first we heard about these drastic cuts was from Brown on budget day. They didn't tell us or our union. It seems that the major parties are playing a game of 'Who can sack the most civil servants', and it's the public who will suffer.

I think the next two days strike action will be better supported than the last because now people can see what the government have in store for civil servants.'

Claire Donnelly Department for Work and Pensions, Sheffield


Brown's plan

  • 30,000 job losses from the Department for Work and Pensions.

  • 10,500 staff lost from the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise.

  • 1,460 job losses from the Department for Skills and Education.

  • All departments have to make 2.5 percent cuts between 2004 and 2008.

  • 20,000 jobs to go from London and the south east.

  • 90,000 civil service jobs to go in the next four years.


    We need a national strike

    By Phil Pardoe

    Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) group executive committee My branch meeting last week passed an emergency motion unanimously condemning the government and the employer over the job cuts.

    Workers in the DWP struck in February over poverty pay. We have another strike planned for 13 and 14 April. We need to review and intensify our action. The motion calls on the group executive committee to have a programme of escalating action in our dispute. We also have to go to members and campaign for the continuous action we need to win.

    We also have to recognise the scale of the attack-a quarter of jobs will go in the DWP. Every department has to reach a government efficiency target. The PCS nationally has to call a ballot over the issue of staffing and poverty pay in every department. Our campaign has been piecemeal so far. It has to become a national campaign. We need a national strike.


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    Article information

    Features
    Sat 27 Mar 2004, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1894
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