Action to keep offices open was backed by delegates at the PCS Department for Work and Pensions group conference in Brighton.
The staffing campaign motion, proposed by Peter Cogbill of Cornwall branch, called for a fully-staffed service in which claims are processed efficiently and claimants are given the help they need to help them back into work.
The conference agreed unanimously to campaign for adequate staffing and against job cuts and to encourage submissions for localised strikes to force DWP management to recruit increasing numbers of staff urgently.
There was rapturous applause for Rita Berry, Liverpool branch chair, for her first-time speech to conference after she described how members in Merseyside had held two strikes in March to increase pressure on management not to transfer staff out of jobcentres. Members are angry at plans to compulsorily transfer one in every five admin grade staff out of local jobcentres into contact centres. PCS has made clear to management that the staffing shortage in contact centres should be addressed by recruiting more staff not by taking essential resource from jobcentres.
She told conference: “There’s something really wonderful about seeing an office where staff arrive at 8 or 8.30am and then walk out at 9am and come back at noon and then walk out again at 1pm and don’t come back.
“The action forced management to make an offer, it’s not enough and this dispute will continue.”
Tony Reay from South East London branch said that there was a "serious problem with capacity and staffing" where he works at Catford jobcentre.
“Each day we get more visitors than Legoland at our jobcentre, but the trouble is we don’t have the staff to match,” he said. “We have more than 2,000 visitors every day but only 800 have an appointment.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has commended members in Revenue and Customs for their outstanding work over the years in raising the debate on tax evasion by high income earners.
Speaking at the Revenue and Customs group conference, Mark said the high profile campaigns to get people like Philip Green to pay tax could not have happened without their early work.
Talking about the £120 billion of tax that is dodged he pointed out how some elements of the media have twisted priorities. They focus on the £1 billion lost in benefit fraud and do not report the tens of billions lost in tax fraud.
“If the government was serious about tax avoidance they would not be cutting jobs in HMRC. This is why the group ballot is so important,” he said.
Congratulating everyone on the recent successful strike on 10 May, Mark said: “Following 30 November was never going to be easy. So many members from across the trade union movement had been involved and had showed what we were capable of as a unified voice. The 10 May strike demonstrated we were right to form an alliance with six other unions as the way forward for our members.”
This is why the forthcoming vote on Wednesday to continue to campaign jointly with as many unions as possible is hugely important.
Mark reaffirmed the importance of political campaigning, saying that members will soon be balloted on whether to support election candidates who back anti-austerity measures. He added that we need to continue the fight against austerity and for the alternative of investment and growth.
Mark also took the opportunity to pay tribute to former group president for Revenue and Customs, Dave Bean who is retiring this year. He described Dave as a “dedicated activist who was devoted to obtaining improvements for members.”
Read more about our work in Revenue and Customs
PCS conference delegates donned Robin Hood hats on Brighton seafront today to highlight the need for the UK government to support a tax that could raise billions of pounds for public services.
The union has joined supporters from around the globe in calling for a small financial transaction tax (FTT), popularly known as the Robin Hood tax, to be levied on banks’ high frequency transactions, financial speculation, credit default swaps and other derivatives.
The idea is backed by entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, religious leader Desmond Tutu, and European heads from across the political spectrum, including French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Several European countries are set to introduce the tax but the UK is lagging behind, claiming it would upset the City of London and see traders flee elsewhere.
There is no evidence to prove the government’s claims and PCS believes the FTT should be seen as an opportunity for the financial sector to pay its share towards the economic gloom it helped create.
The stunt was part of the Robin Hood Tax campaign’s global week of action and coincides with the European Union summit in Chicago.
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