Workers took part in unofficial walkouts in Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Norwich on Wednesday of last week after a PCS civil service workers’ union activist was demoted.
An important meeting of the PCS group executive in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was taking place as Socialist Worker went to press.
The meeting was called to discuss the union’s reaction to the demotion of Darren Smith.
The union was due to ballot on an offer to settle the dispute following a meeting of branch reps on 11 August. The ballot has been delayed because of the threat of victimisation.
DWP workers in Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Norwich staged unofficial walkouts last week after it was announced that Darren Smith had been downgraded for allegedly passing information to the media.
Darren Smith, who works in the Yarmouth office, had been suspended since June for his role in the union’s campaign to expose the effects of job cuts and a failing computer system on people claiming benefit.
Staff in Lowestoft were absorbing the news of Darren’s demotion when word came that our colleagues in Great Yarmouth had walked out.
Workers called a car park meeting at lunchtime to discuss the situation and many of those present decided not to return to work in protest.
Members are furious at how Darren has been treated and are demanding a vigorous response from the PCS DWP group executive.
By taking unofficial action, staff have indicated that they have the stomach to take on management over this victimisation. Let’s hope our leadership demonstrates the same resolve.
The group executive was to decide whether to go ahead with the ballot and how to react to Darren’s victimisation.
One activist in the PCS DWP Liverpool branch said, “This is no longer just about Darren - if the penalty is not dropped we will all be terrified to put our heads above the parapet.”
Steve Bramhill, the branch secretary of Liverpool branch, said, “One of the strands of the proposed settlement in the jobs, rights and services dispute is improved industrial relations.
“As DWP management have clearly indicated their lack of good faith in this matter, we believe it to be wholly inappropriate to ballot members to call off the dispute.”
The group executive should call the next round of strikes. If the ballot goes ahead then activists should campaign to reject the deal.
Dave Owens is a member of the PCS DWP group executive. Nick Bird is the assistant secretary of the PCS Norfolk & Suffolk DWP branch. Both write in a personal capacity