The first PCS strike day took place at Eastern Avenue Job Centre, Sheffield, on Friday 2nd June. It was a very successful strike and picket line after a colossal 92% vote in favour of strike action in the ballot. The picket was supported by community activists, Momentum and the Labour Party.
The cause of the strike is the planned closure of the Eastern Avenue Centre. All DWP buildings are up for contract renewal in April 2018. The DWP plans to take the opportunity to downsize by closing about 100 offices, 73 of them public facing offices. There will be even more in three years’ time.
Although these plans are still in consultation, Eastern Avenue staff know that their office is on the list and are keen to let management know, while consultation is taking place, what they think of the idea – not just for them and their clients but for the other offices under threat as well. The consultation has been put on hold during the General Election, meaning the staff cannot get answers to their questions.
The closure would not, at least for now, mean redundancies or changes in contracts for the staff. The main change for them is that they would have to travel into the centre of Sheffield to go to work. However, for their clients, it is disastrous.
As Tom Bishell, PCS rep, told Workers' Liberty, “This is a local, community job centre. The staff here know the clients and their situations. They know the lone parents, the disabled. It costs a lot of money to get into town. And when they get there it would be to a large, impersonal and intimidating office, like a supermarket, where nobody knows them”.
Today’s action will be followed up by a week long strike starting the 12th June if there is no change in the closure plan.
Send messages of support to Tom Bishell.