Tory plans to close half of all jobcentres in Glasgow are just the beginning of a massive attack on jobcentre workers and users, PCS union activists have warned.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced yesterday, Wednesday, plans to close eight of Glasgow’s 16 jobcentres.
And with the Tories planning to shrink the DWP, hundreds more across Britain are sure to follow.
Jobcentre closures will mean that many benefit claimants will have to travel further to get to their nearest one.
This means it could cost them more money to travel to appointments—and they are more likely to be sanctioned if they’re late.
Jobcentre workers will suffer too. The Tories insist the closures will not lead to job losses. But workers will have to cram in to Glasgow’s eight remaining offices.
And the knock-on effects of possibly having to travel further to get to work include increased travel and childcare costs.
Dave Owens—a member of the PCS’ DWP group executive committee—said the attack on the jobcentres meant the union had to fight back nationally.
He told Socialist Worker, “The closure programme is a threat to a vital service to the public. On that basis we should be looking at national action”.
Dave added that Tory plans to slash the DWP estate by 20 percent—getting rid of offices—by 2020 mean there are bound to be more closures.
And the DWP has to notify its landlord Telereal Trillium by the end of this coming January which offices it no longer wants.
That means the Tories are almost certain to announce more closures by mid-December.
Dave said, “There could be hundreds of more offices closed. My guess is that they might be trying out closures first in Glasgow because the union is well organised there.
“They want to see what the reaction is. So there has to be a fight”.
And Steve West, a group executive member in Scotland, said the threat of more closures was another reason for national strikes.
“I would argue that there has to be national strikes across the civil service because other departments such as HMRC have had closures too.
“At the very least there has to be national strikes across the DWP—not just in the offices affected, but the ones that aren’t as well”.
Steve also said the campaign against closures had to link up with jobcentre users and disabled benefit claimants’ groups such as Dpac and Black Triangle. He also suggested setting up an online petition.
The PCS DWP group executive has said it will back any branch that takes action against closures. PCS DWP branches in Glasgow must ballot for strikes now.
But they cannot be left to fight alone. If branches are balloted and left to fight individually, offices where action is weaker could be picked off.
That’s why it’s also urgent that the PCS organises for national strikes as soon as possible.