Benefits campaigners and trade unionists are demanding action to stop the closure of nearly one in ten jobcentres.
Tory minister Damian Hinds announced yesterday, Wednesday, that the government is going ahead with plans to close 74 jobcentres across Britain.
Activists in welfare campaigns and the PCS union have called for strikes and protests to keep them open. Closures would see hundreds of workers sacked – and would pile more misery onto benefit claimants.
On top of the closures, the Tories want to “co-locate” 69 more jobcentres. This means they’ll be moved further away to other offices or local council buildings such as libraries.
Many benefit claimants will be forced to travel further for longer to get to their jobcentre if the attacks go ahead.
They will be more likely to be sanctioned—their benefits temporarily stopped—for missing an appointment or turning up late. They will also have to spend more of their benefits on transport while travelling to and from their appointments.
Dave Owens, a member of the PCS DWP group executive committee (GEC) told Socialist Worker, “It’s another attack on the social security system.
“Half of the jobcentres in Liverpool, where I live, are marked for closure. People are more likely to be sanctioned.”
Hinds said the plan for closures will come into effect at the end of March next year.
“Back of house” offices in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is in charge of jobcentres, are also targeted. Around 750 workers could be made redundant.
But there is already resistance. The announcement came as workers at the Sheffield Eastern Avenue jobcentre prepare to walk out for a second week-long strike against the closure of their office.
Strikes and campaigns can halt closures and save jobs.
The DWP backed down from a plan to close Glasgow’s Castlemilk jobcentre after a strong campaign by residents and benefit claimants.
And solid action with widespread support from other jobcentres at Sheffield Eastern Avenue has shown the type of action needed to win.
Dave said PCS branches should put in strike submissions to the national union. But he added, “We will need national action at some point.”
And Steve West, another GEC member, told Socialist Worker, “We’re going to have to respond very strongly.
“There should be members’ meetings to build support for the strike in Sheffield. And we’re going to have to raise money for the hardship fund.
“But we are going to need serious amounts of strikes.”
The Tories waited until after the general election to confirm their closure plans. But the election has left them weak. They are backtracking and scrapping election promise after election promise.
A campaign of national strikes across the DWP can halt closures and save jobs—and inflict yet another humiliating defeat on the Tories.