On 7 July, the Department for Work and Pensions announced a list of 74 Jobcentre and 28 back of house office closures. The PCS DWP GEC has called an emergency meeting Friday 14 July.
Activists in the Independent Left have submitted a motion calling for an immediate DWP wide ballot. Earlier this year, the DWP issued proposals to close Jobcentres and offices and said some sites would be considered for co-location with local authority offices. Although the PCS union Group Executive Committee issued a campaign plan and opposed the proposals, it was left to individual offices and branches to make submissions to the National Executive for industrial action. Only one was received, from DWP Sheffield Branch and union members at Eastern Avenue Jobcentre.
Members at Eastern Avenue were balloted, beat the new threshold imposed by the Tory government, and voted by 97% for strikes. So far the members at Eastern Avenue have struck for six days, with another five-day strike planned starting Monday 17 July. Picket lines have been well supported by PCS as well as Unite Community, DPAC, local Labour MPs and claimants.
PCS members and the public are fighting this together. No jobs are at risk in Sheffield. Staff will be moved into another Jobcentre. Members are striking to keep the Jobcentre in the local community it serves. So far we are aware that up to 750 jobs are now at risk of redundancy ,and thousands of the most vulnerable in society will lose access to vital services in their community – leaving many sick and disabled claimants unable to attend mandatory interviews at their jobcentre, drastically weakening the service provided.
The fight needs to be stepped up now. Having a handful of offices taking action on their own will not win this dispute. The members need to stand together and not let the cuts to our public services continue.