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Sheffield jobcentre strike inspires wider fight as PCS union discusses campaign

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Issue 2564
Striking at Eastern Avenue jobcentre

Striking at Eastern Avenue jobcentre

Workers at a Sheffield jobcentre ended a week-long strike last Friday—and could soon be joined by workers at three other offices in their fight against Tory cuts and closures.

The PCS union members are battling to halt the closure of the Sheffield Eastern Avenue jobcentre.

It is one of 74 jobcentres set to close across Britain next year.

The closures will make it harder for benefit claimants to sign on. It could also mean the loss of hundreds of jobs from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

PCS rep Clare Goonan was “really pleased” with the turnout on the picket lines each morning. She told Socialist Worker, “The strike has been very well supported.

“We even had a choir come and sing for us on the last morning of the strike.”

The next step for workers could be a two-week strike in August. Clare added that workers at three other DWP offices had requested a strike ballot from the PCS.

It shows how the strike in Sheffield has led the way in fighting office closures across the DWP. Now more PCS branches should join the fight and request strike ballots.

But beating back this attack will take a national strike across the DWP.

Nick Clark

Union reps to discuss campaign against office closures

Delegates from PCS union branches representing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) offices across Britain will meet this Saturday to develop the campaign against office closures.

The meeting has been called by the union’s DWP Group Executive Committee (GEC), which is considering holding a consultative ballot of all members affected by a closure.

A proposal to ballot all DWP members rather than just those affected by closures was not agreed by the GEC despite the new political mood that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has opened up and which could help win such a ballot.

With the massive scale of the office closure programme and the Tories’ determination to push ahead with it serious action is needed now. We need to step up our national campaign of both industrial action and political campaigning.

The offices that have been saved from closure so far—Barrow, Bishop Auckland, Glasgow Castlemilk, Edmonton, Glasgow Cambuslang, Newcastle East, South Shields and Plymouth Old Tree Court—show that campaigning works.

PCS members at Sheffield Eastern Avenue jobcentre have now taken 11 days of strikes (see above).

Other threatened offices should be encouraged to join them and strike.

Steve West, PCS DWP Group Executive Committee (pc)

Civil service workers round up

The PCS union has taken a step towards striking to end the 1 percent public sector pay cap.

Its national executive agreed last week to launch an indicative ballot of its members in the autumn to ask if they would be prepared to take industrial action.

NEC member Candy Udwin told Socialist Worker, “We should work as if this is a real strike ballot and use it to strengthen our branches and recruit new members.”

The ballot could also show that the union can beat the 50 percent turnout threshold that would make a strike lawful.

PCS union members in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are set to hold a day of action over pay on Monday of next week.

Every PCS branch in HMRC should aim to organise actions such as lunchtime protests.

And members in other civil service departments should do their best to join and support them and start building momentum to scrap the pay cap.

The PCS union won a court battle against the Tory government last week over its cuts to civil service redundancy payments.

The Tories cut redundancy payments to civil service workers last year.

But the High Court last week ruled that the government had acted unlawfully by excluding the PCS from consultations ahead of the cut.

The ruling could mean that civil service workers made redundant since the cut are entitled to compensation—and that the Tories have to scrap the cut and start again.

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