Socialist Worker

Jobcentres safety ballot + Thurrock fightbacks + University jobs battles + Sandwell strikes

Issue No. 2753

No time to restart face to face interviews

No time to restart face to face interviews (Pic: Chris Talbot)

The PCS union is to ballot Jobcentre members over the return to unsafe workplaces

They are being asked if they are prepared to take industrial action. This is in response to the Department for Work and Pensions’ decision to restart face to face interviews with claimants.

Reps have been inundated with concerns from frightened members, many of whom have been working from home during the pandemic for health reasons, now being told by managers that they must attend the workplace.

In a recent members' survey, 79 percent felt unsafe or unsure about returning to offices for face to face interviews.

In a previous consultative ballot last August, 77 percent of members stated they were prepared to take action as part of a safety dispute. This resulted in significant concessions.

As this also affects claimants, PCS has briefed organisations such as Disabled People Against Cuts, who have been supportive of our campaign. Members are reporting that managers are telling them claimants who don't attend the Jobcentre can be sanctioned.

The consultative ballot runs from this week to 21 May and is being conducted electronically.

Branches need to hold members’ meetings and pull out all the stops to get a strong Yes vote.

Steve West, PCS DWP group executive committee (personal capacity)

Fightbacks in Thurrock

Council workers in Thurrock, Essex, are still striking against bosses’ plans to “brutally cut their pay and conditions”.

The Tory-run council wants to slash highway maintenance, refuse and street cleaning workers’ pay.

Around 100 Unite union members are saying no to cuts in payments for working unsocial hours, overtime, night shifts and bank holidays.

Donations to the strike fund to Unite 1/1152, sort code 60-83-01, account number 20216557. Messages of solidarity to [email protected]
  • Care workers in the same council have voted by 98 percent for strikes over cuts in a consultative ballot.

The GMB union members staged a protest outside the council building last Friday and have plans for more.

Defending university jobs

UCU union members at the University of Liverpool plan to begin industrial action from Monday of next week to defend jobs. 

Over 1,000 workers will only work to contract and will boycott voluntary activities. The action is in response to bosses’ plans to slash up to 47 teaching and research jobs in the faculty of health and life sciences. 

President of the UCU branch Anthony O’Hanlon described this as a “senseless attack on jobs”. 

Some 90 percent of union members who voted backed industrial action in a ballot. The union said more action could follow, including a marking boycott and strikes. 

  • Students protested outside Chester Town Hall on Wednesday of last week, against plans to cut 27 jobs at the University of Chester. They have also launched a petition. 

University staff joined the protest. The UCU branch held its biggest ever meeting over the attacks, and voted by 96 percent to “pursue all means necessary” to oppose compulsory redundancies.

Opposing the removal of national agreements

Opposing the removal of national agreements (Pic: Sandwell Unison)

Sandwell leisure centres fight fire and rehire

Unison union members at leisure centres in Sandwell, West Midlands, struck last Friday against a fire and rehire move by the council's arms-length Sandwell Leisure Trust. It wants to force them off national pay and conditions.

There was a good turnout of over a dozen workers on the picket in the morning at the Tipton leisure centre and it was completely closed for the day.

The council should take the leisure centres fully back in-house and restore the terms of all national agreements.

Martin Lynch

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