Socialist Worker

Push for a nationwide strike at the DWP to stop job losses and jobcentre closures

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2568

Pickets at Eastern Avenue jobcentre in Sheffield

Pickets at Eastern Avenue jobcentre in Sheffield (Pic: Neil Terry)


More than 800 public sector workers are to be made redundant in the next six months, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced last week.

Hundreds of workers will lose their jobs as a result of the DWP’s programme of office closures. The planned cuts will see almost one in ten jobcentres—run by the DWP—closed across Britain, alongside other offices

DWP bosses hope to force the redundancies through after a consultation with the workers’ PCS union lasting just 45 days.

The PCS says it “completely opposed” to the redundancies. It added that it expects workers to be offered voluntary redundancy first, but forced into compulsory redundancy if they refuse.

Workers at the Eastern Avenue jobcentre in Sheffield entered the second week of a two-week strike on Monday against the closure of their office.

In a sign of how quickly closures can be forced through, Whitley Bay jobcentre closed for good last week. The workers struck on Thursday and Friday in protest.

Notice

Lawrence Barnes, PCS rep at the jobcentre, told Socialist Worker, “We were only given four weeks’ notice of the closure, and within that time we had to hold a one week ballot and give two weeks’ notice before we could show solidarity with the customers on the last two days.”

He added that the closure would make life harder for benefit claimants.

“Claimants will have to travel over three miles to the nearest jobcentre,” he said.

“Some of the customers that we’re dealing with are very vulnerable. Some of them struggle to cross the road to get to their local jobcentre, let alone travel three miles.”

The strike showed the potential to organise resistance, but the office’s closure and the scale of the job losses show the need for a coordinated, national fightback.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was set to speak at a rally against the closure of the benefits centre in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, this Friday at 1pm, at the Quadrant in Main Street.

Steve West, a member of the PCS’s DWP group executive committee, told Socialist Worker that a strike across the department is needed.

“We need to think very seriously about what reaction we have. So far the industrial action has centred on individual offices and branches, and the action that has taken place has been very well supported.

“But the question is, how are we going to defeat the attacks if we don’t have a strike ballot across the DWP?”

Steve West speaks in a personal capacity

Solidarity

Support the Sheffield strikers

  • Join picket lines at 19 Eastern Avenue, S2 2FZ
  • Send messages of support to leeds@pcs.org.uk
  • Donate to the fighting fund by cheque to PCS DWP Group, 3rd Floor, Town Centre House, Merrion Centre, Leeds LS2 8LY

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