Benefits

Statutory ballot in DWP? (John Moloney's column)

The consultative ballot of our members in Job Centres returned an overwhelming majority in favour of industrial action over safety concerns. The union's Group Executive Committee for the Department for Work and Pensions meets on Tuesday 22 September and will discuss whether to proceed to a formal, statutory ballot, which they're very likely to do. Anyone who was wavering on whether action is necessary is likely to have been galvanised by events in recent days. Management is increasing the number of claimants required to attend physical meetings at Job Centres, which is a huge risk given...

NRPF hits women harder in pandemic

Women’s charities have raised the alarm that victims of domestic violence are being refused places at refuges because they do not speak sufficient English. Those turned away include a mother with a 14-month-old baby who was fleeing violence after being held as a slave by her ex-husband. Karma Nirvana, which supports those at risk from forced marriage and “honour”-based violence, said squeezed services in the lockdown period made it even harder for migrant women to access refuge places. Of 20 women Karma Nirvana could not find a refuge for during lockdown, it said five were turned down by six...

"Conditionality" and DWP hours (John Moloney's column)

“Conditionality” for benefit claimants has been restored, which means claimants can be “sanctioned” — i.e., have their benefits revoked — for things like being late for appointments. This is a spectacularly cruel decision on the government’s part, which PCS completely opposes. At the moment, bosses are still proceeding with a light touch and often not insisting that frontline DWP staff impose conditionality. But that’s likely to change, especially as claims continue to rise. We oppose conditionality both in terms of its impact on claimants, and its use as a productivity measure to discipline...

Income shock

The Resolution Foundation cites business surveys to estimate that over one million workers out of the 9.5 million so far furloughed may lose their jobs completely when government furlough money stops at the end of October. It predicts a further “income shock” if the Tories stick to their plan to withdraw from April 2021 the £20 increase in Universal Credit which came with lockdown. That would mean an income cut of over £1,000 for over six million households. All that without factoring in the risk of a full-on second surge of the virus.

PCS tells members: you have the right to refuse unsafe work

On 29 June, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that it was re-introducing benefit conditionality, or sanctions, from 1 July. Conditionality was suspended at the start of lockdown for all claimants as it wasn’t practical to look for work. This also meant that staff could be redeployed on processing the millions of new Universal Credit claims. Secretary of State (and arch right-winger) Therese Coffey announced her intention that 14 Jobcentres would open on 2 July. As it happens only one opened, Marylebone. That was going to open come what may so Coffey could get her photo op...

Diary of a Job Centre worker: Back to "conditionality"

Some Jobcentre staff have spent the last couple of weeks calling the new Covid-19 claimants offering voluntary job support, work all staff are or were meant to be moved onto. But now we're being told that it's not voluntary for 18-24s, and that besides, "conditionality" — meaning regular phone appointments, mandatory work search activity and sanctions — is returning in July. Confusion and indecision reign. Meanwhile, existing vulnerable claimants from pre-March have been left to rot, in many cases with no contact or support in three months. They are the lowest priority in management's eyes...

A shorter working week with no pay cut!

Janet Burstall argues the case from an Australian perspective. The same basic ideas are applicable in Britain and elsewhere. The most optimistic assessment by the Reserve Bank is that it will take a “few years” to reverse “much” (i.e. not all) of the increase in unemployment from the Covid-19 lockdown. The wages vs jobs trade-off debate is back with a vengeance. Unionists are arguing that keeping up incomes will stimulate demand and economic growth, while employer voices argue that they cannot afford a 4% rise in the minimum wage, and many will cut employment or go out of business. The system...

Fallback pay for all

30 million workers in the USA have applied for unemployment benefit since March. 35 million workers are on government-funded furlough schemes in Europe (10 million in Germany, 11.3 million in France). 1.8 million have applied for Universal Credit in Britain, and 700,000 have got advance payments. Signals are also increasing of a new wave of job cuts as the lockdowns ease and creditors start chasing debts.

Time to be combative

A left member of the PCS civil service union’s national executive talked with Sacha Ismail. There’s going to be a vast amount of social turmoil created by this. The economic and social fallout is going to be enormous. The benefits system needs thoroughly transforming so it actually supports people. In the short term that might involve some form of a Basic Income to get money to people fast, but there are much wider issues of how the system works and treats people. Under a bit of pressure but fundamentally because they were worried about their system collapsing, the government has resorted to a...

Slump after the slump?

57% of US university chiefs say they will be cutting jobs in the coming months. Many US universities are expected to shut down altogether. In Britain, councils say they will face an unpayable £5 billion debt as they move out of the lockdown. Some are already planning cuts, and some are threatening to declare themselves bankrupt. Workers in some elderly care homes have been told that their jobs may disappear as the lockdown eases, since the homes will have fewer old people to look after. In Britain already, one and a half million people have claimed Universal Credit. Those who have lost jobs...

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