PCS

The right to refuse (John Moloney's column)

The government is pressing ahead with its plan to reopen job centres and driving instruction centres to the public from 6 July. We’ve given advice to our members in those sectors that we thinking this return to public-facing work is unsafe, and have reminded them of their rights to refuse unsafe work. We’ll back up groups of members who take that action. We don’t know exactly how things will play out. 60% of staff in the Department for Work and Pensions are already working from the physical workplace, rather than from home. DWP workers have continued to see particularly vulnerable claimants...

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...

Jobcentre workers and Covid-19: Unsafe, unworkable, unacceptable

The Secretary of the State for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that she wants job centres to open from 4 July, with mass opening to the public on Monday 6 July. This is unsafe, and unworkable — there is no means to safely distance in an interview with a claimant in a small job centre, and no mitigations and additional safety measures have been installed, such as perspex screens or additional hand sanitising facilities. The government also plans to introduce stricter conditionality on claims, meaning claimants will face more stringent checks on how much job searching...

Section 44 and the civil service

Civil service employers have been reticent to go for a return-to-work drive in the short to medium term. The Cabinet Office informed the union that they would continue to support homeworking. That approach isn’t completely uniform, and the Cabinet Office hasn’t exerted any particular pressure to rein in departmental employers who are taking a different approach, but there has been no central, concerted, back-to-work lurch. The major exception to this is the outsourced contractors, who have behaved appallingly and are forcing workers to continue working despite the buildings they clean or...

It's your right to refuse unsafe work

Watch the video of the article on this page: As workers are encouraged to return to the workplace, as part of the government’s botched and reckless easing of lockdown measures, an urgent discussion is taking place across workplaces and through unions about resisting a lurch back to work in unsafe conditions. School workers’ unions are organising to resist a planned reopening from 1 June of schools (beyond the vulnerable and key workers’ children for whom they have remained open throughout. Joe Anderson, the Labour mayor of Liverpool, and some other Labour councils have said they support the...

Section 44 in the civil service

The National Executive Committee of the Public and Commercial Services union met on 13 May to discuss the union’s position on a potential back-to-work drive. This is an abridged and slighted edited version of a report published by an NEC member and supporter of the Independent Left network. The full version will be published on the Independent Left website. Our Independent Left proposals, built around how to respond in the worst-case scenario of a mass return to work, were as follows. It was broadly agreed that 1, 2, 4 and 5 were covered by the union’s actions and/or overtaken by events. 3...

PCS to meet with Cabinet Office over Covid-19 issues

The union has commenced discussions with the Cabinet Office on a return-to-work protocol for the entire civil service, but we’re having to fight the managements of individual departments who want to pre-empt that by unilaterally bringing in their own return-to-work plans, prior to a national agreement being in place, or simply pressuring people back to work. The first formal meeting with Cabinet Office will take place this week. Our National Executive Committee will meet to review our position; currently our policy is that home working should continue for all workers who can work from home...

Getting safe workplaces

Our union (PCS) National Executive Committee will meet this week to discuss a formal position on criteria for any possible return to work. The majority of civil servants can work from home, so there’s no reason why any return to the workplace shouldn’t be voluntary. Other ideas being discussed include a demand that distancing measures be maintained in the workplace, facilitated by mechanisms such as staggered start times, to regulate the amount of people who are in the workplace at any given time. We also want a clear agreement around a protocol for what will happen when there’s a confirmed...

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...

Make workplaces safe first! (John Moloney's column)

We’re still waiting for a response from the civil service to our proposals for what employers should do in cases of some who might be affected by the virus. We made various demands about the isolation and closure of workspaces; we were promised a response this week, but that’s now been delayed. For the past fortnight we’ve been holding off bosses’ plans to increase staffing levels in the workplace itself in the Passport Office. There’s currently a 17.5% staffing level in the workplace, and bosses want to ramp that up to 25%. They want to clear a backlog of applications, but on the whole that’s...

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