Socialist Worker

You see the real people and the real problems working in these offices

Issue No. 1926

Paul Williams, Driving Standards Agency, Nottingham

THE MOOD is up in Nottingham. There is a good spirit around, and we are expecting big picket lines across the city.

A lot of people are joining the union so they can go on strike. Around 100 have joined in the Driving Standards Agency.

We have organised a march and rally through the town which Billy Hayes, the CWU postal workers’ union leader, will address along with Labour MP Alan Simpson.

The Fire Brigades Union has donated £100, and there will also be speakers from the Unison union there.

We are expecting solid support for the strike from PCS members and other unions.

The big worry is that, by attacking pensions and sick pay, the government is preparing the civil service for privatisation.

We need to defend offices that are being closed. We also need to go on the offensive over pay.

Blair is weak over the war on Iraq and with a general election coming up.

One day of strike action is not enough. We need to reballot for further action on a united, national level.


Alison Probert, DWP, central London

PEOPLE WHO have never been militant before are joining the union and going on strike. My own line manager, who has been very anti-union in the past, agrees with the union’s campaign.

There is a big feeling that the government has spent too much money bombing Afghanistan and Iraq, and now it wants to make us pay the price.

People see that it’s us against the government.

The government is going to sack one in five civil service workers—one in three in my department. We are already understaffed.

Staff in my office work extremely hard, often through their lunch hours and into the evening, to deliver services to the public. You see the real people and the real problems working in these offices.

It already takes ages to process benefit claims. What is it going to be like when we lose all these people?

There is an unbelievable level of frustration on a daily basis, especially about the move towards call centres.

There is a lower level of service from call centres than people can get face to face.

My job is to help disabled people find work, but about 50 percent of my time is taken up resolving benefit enquiries. Things are getting worse and worse for the services.

People are ready to take action to show the government this isn’t on.


Paula Walsh, DWP, Exeter

THE MOOD among PCS members has been very good at the meetings that I have been doing in the south west.

There have been better turnouts for them than for the meetings on pay earlier this year.

I am expecting a massive turnout on Friday of this week. DWP workers have already taken six days of action this year over pay, but they see this campaign as being vital.

There are rumours that the first 6,000 compulsory redundancies are going to be announced in the next few days, which will certainly galvanise people even more.

The services are being decimated. Management is coming down hard on people over sick absences, because that is a way of getting rid of staff without paying out.

Other unions are backing us and we have rallies planned across the south west. Union members are now asking, “What’s next?”


We have to turn anger into confidence

Rachel Edwards, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, London

People are unhappy with the way the job cuts have been handled—Gordon Brown announced it on TV.

Some 400 jobs are going in my department in London, with 292 supposedly going to Newcastle.

There has been a good response for volunteers for the picket line.

My department is not the most union conscious, but I think we will get a better turnout on the strike than the government wants.

People are angry, but that has to be turned into confidence and the ability to see that our actions do make a difference.

We will need more national action to win.


Rob Jackson, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Manchester

THERE HAVE been two meetings at my office to discuss the strike.

A lot of people’s views have shifted because of the job cuts.

People are saying that one day isn’t enough. I’ve heard someone ask why we’ve given management so much notice, and that we should decide on Friday and go out on Monday. This was the first thing one person ever said to me!

People are up for the strike, and we have organised a picket line. There will be a demonstration outside one of the offices in Salford they plan to close.

Management are clamping down on reps. A rep in Cheetham has been formally warned for handing out union material in her spare time.

But people are going to show they won’t stand for it.


Dave Richards, DWP PCS group assistant secretary (pc)

The union has to quickly appraise the response to 5 November and then move quickly to ballot for discontinuous strike action.

There is a danger we could lose momentum. Job cuts are happening now. Management in the south east are talking about redundancies.

There are 1,200 jobs to go from DWP HQ and the loss of 45 local services in the Child Support Agency. The cuts are very deep, and the scale is beginning to dawn on people.

People are up for 5 November and for further action.


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Features
Sat 6 Nov 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1926
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