Socialist Worker

Revolt against DWP pay deal at PCS conferences

by NIck Clark in Brighton
Issue No. 2505

DWP workers on strike over pay in 2007

DWP workers on strike over pay in 2007 (Pic: Socialist Wroker)

The start of the PCS union conferences on Monday saw big debates in the HMRC (tax) and DWP (work and pensions) sectors.

The DWP Group Executive Committee (GEC) faced a big revolt over its decision to back a pay deal.

A card vote saw the deal pass narrowly, with 43.5 percent against the deal and 56.4 percent in favour.

The deal would mean that normal working hours would be extended to between 8am to 8pm. And Saturday would be part of the working week.

It would give above inflation pay increases for 60 percent of workers below the top of the pay scale for their grade. Some would see 20 percent rises over four years.

But the deal is divisive as other workers would see increases of only between 1.3 and 1.6 percent each year. Workers could opt out of the new contracts—but would not see any of the pay increases.

Speakers in favour of the deal argued that there was no alternative, and no possibility of fighting for a better one.

Before the debate, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told delegates, “It’s not a perfect deal. No deal is.

"We have to persuade other public sector unions that we have to campaign together to beat George Osborne’s pay cap.

“The idea that PCS can beat the pay cap on its own is a hard ask.”

But Kate Douglas from Oxford said, “When a union fights it makes us stronger. The Tories are tearing themselves apart. Now is the time to fight.”

Jane Aitchison from Leeds said, “Our members were gutted that their union was recommending that we accept this deal.

“It will haunt us for years and leave us in no position to fight back on other issues.”

PCS members will be balloted on the deal. Activists can still campaign to reject it.

Meanwhile delegates in the HMRC sector debated the union’s response to the bosses’ programme of office closures and redundancies. A motion for a national ballot was narrowly defeated.

The general PCS conference was opening as Socialist Worker went to press.

Strike for jobs at BIS

Civil service workers at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) struck on Thursday of last week against office closures and job cuts.

Plans by Tory business secretary Sajid Javid to close regional offices and relocate them to London or simply close them permanently could see hundreds of jobs lost.

Some 14,000 workers’ jobs are at risk and 40 percent are set to go if the planned changes aren’t stopped.

The largest regional office in Sheffield was closed down completely by the strike—with some 50 strikers on the picket line.

Strikers also protested outside Sheffield’s Cutlers’ Hall, where Javid was speaking to bosses at the opulent annual Cutlers’ Feast.

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