The Civil Service Rank and File Network have called a rally outside the PCS conference this week to demand action from the union on the vicious benefit sanctioning regime.
Benefit sanctions are set to become a huge issue for public sector workers when Universal Credit is fully introduced. Under the new rules even part-time workers will be expected to continually look for ‘more or better paid work’ or face in-work benefits being stopped. This will lead to Jobcentre workers being expected to police and sanction their colleagues, along with other low paid DWP workers.
It is clear how this toxic regime will not just place intolerable pressure on working relations at the DWP, but also could be used to undermine future industrial action. DWP management will be given unprecedented power over the lives of part-time public sector workers, including the option to send people on workfare during the hours they are not in paid employment.
This is not scare-mongering. 85,000 benefit sanctions were imposed on claimants in just January of this year. Jobcentre workers who do not sanction enough claims are placed under Performance Improvement Plans. PCS members right now are being disciplined for not meeting targets to sanction benefit claims – yet DWP ministers have denied that these targets even exist.
When Universal Credit is launched PCS members at the DWP will not just have the power to sanction their lowest paid colleagues, they will face disciplinary action if they don’t do it often enough.
Astonishingly the PCS leadership have said that this sanctioning regime is not a workplace issue. Two motions calling for urgent debate on how to take meaningful action against these measures – and Universal Credit will begin to be rolled out nationally from October this year – have been removed from the PCS Conference agenda.
Claimants have long called for action not words from the PCS to help bring about an end to benefit sanctions. There is no doubting the sincerity of the PCS in their support of claimants and low paid workers, but leaflets and strongly worded statements are no longer enough, if they ever were.
Benefit sanctions mean child poverty, ill health and even in some cases homelessness. Lives can be shattered by decisions Jobcentre workers are forced to take under threat of losing their jobs if they refuse. Very soon some of those having their lives ripped apart by DWP created poverty will be low paid public sector workers. Only collective action from the PCS, along with active support from claimants and low paid members of other unions, will bring this regime to an end.
If the PCS leadership will not let a discussion take place inside the conference on how to fight these devastating attacks on those both in and out of work, then that conversation will have to take place in the street. Join the lobby, supported by claimant groups including Boycott Workfare and Disabled People Against Cuts, outside the PCS Conference in Brighton on Tuesday 21st May.
Tuesday 21 May, 12.30-14.00
The Brighton Centre, King’s Rd, Brighton, BN1 2GR
Bring flags and banners
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/258534454291849/
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