Reposted from Union Solidarity International
The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote. They would not have been elected had the same criteria been imposed as strike ballots
Half the members of the new Tory Cabinet were elected on less than 40% of the electorate – failing the government’s own trade union legitimacy test.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, himself elected by 38.3% of the electorate, yesterday announced new rules concerning strike ballots.
The proposal is that a ballot result would only be valid if: (1) at least 50% of members vote in them and (2) at least 40% of all members vote to support the action.
Therefore, the bare minimum will be 80% yes with a 50% turnout. meaning trade union strike ballots would no longer be declared by a simple majority, but would only become valid if 40% of members voted in them.
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Universal Credit staff have delivered a damning verdict on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform.
Staff told the PCS union that Universal Credit is ‘in disarray’ and mired by a lack of staff, poor training and an inadequate IT system.
A survey carried out by PCS, shows that 90% of Universal Credit staff believe the IT systems underpinning the new benefit are less than adequate. Only 0.9% said the IT systems were more than adequate.
Respondents to the survey also said they didn’t feel confident in carrying out their roles, with four in five saying the training they had received to prepare them for Universal Credit was of a poor standard.
Almost three-quarters said their working conditions had deteriorated under the new system, leaving them feeling stressed or very stressed.
77% said they thought staffing levels were less than adequate and two thirds said they were frequently asked to work overtime, with only 7% saying they were never asked.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of Universal Credit, is that more than half of those who responded to the survey said the new benefit was not an improvement for claimants.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent more than £700 million on Universal Credit, which merges a number of existing benefits into one single monthly payment.
The new benefit has been dogged by long delays and IT problems. Last year the Government admitted it may have to write off £663 million on Universal Credit IT.
Official government figures show that only 31,030 people were on Universal Credit by 8 January 2015. Of these 32% were in employment and 68% were not in employment.
At the time of the survey, around 820 staff were working on universal credit and 300 to 400 responded to the questions.
PCS say they are not opposed to Universal Credit in principle, but say the scheme has not been designed with claimants in mind.
They added that staff are not being given proper training and resources, while millions of pounds on IT have already been written off.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“No one can trust Iain Duncan Smith to tell the truth about universal credit so it falls to the staff to expose this wasteful and politically motivated shambles for what it is.
“It has long been obvious that staff are under-resourced and undertrained and that universal credit is at risk of collapse.
“The DWP cannot keep burying its head in the sand and hope these problems go away because they are only going to get worse if nothing is done.”
A DWP spokesman said:
“The PCS survey comprises of only 13% of our 2,700 staff working on Universal Credit.
“They chose to ignore staff in our Jobcentres when conducting this research providing a skewed unrepresentative sample of union members.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Mar 2015
The cost to job seekers of having their benefit payments stopped has rocketed by 3,000% under the Tory-led coalition Government, new figures show.
Analysis of Government figures by the PCS union reveals that the value of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payments sanctioned in the year to September 2014 was £355 million, compared to just £11 million in 2009/2010.
PCS says the shocking figure explains why benefit sanctions have been directly linked to a surge in food bank users.
The food bank charity Trussell Trust supported more than 913,000 people with three-days worth of emergency food in 2013/14.
The new research from PCS is published ahead of a Dispatches investigation to be broadcast this evening into the government’s sanctions regime.
The documentary will feature details of a new report from a coalition of major churches, which reveals that nearly 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions last year.
Under changes to the sanctions regime, the length of time sanctions can be imposed for has increased, with the minimum set at four weeks, rising to 13 weeks and up to three years.
Opponents of the new system say unemployed people are being unfairly “vilified” and demonised for economic problems not of their making.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“This government is imposing much harsher penalties on people who rely on social security at the same time as seeking to blame and vilify them for being out of work.
“Sanctions do nothing to help unemployed people find sustainable jobs. They only poison the relationship between claimants and jobcentre staff, and they should be scrapped immediately.”
> Mr Serwotka doesn’t tell us how many sanctions have been applied by PCS members. Or why his union hasn’t taken action about it.
Commenting on the impact of benefit sanction on Britain’s poorest children, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Something has gone badly wrong when 100,000 children are innocent victims of benefit sanctions.
“Under this government the sanctions system has become a cruel maze in which it is all too easy for claimants to lose cash for minor breaches of rules and random decisions.
“Even those who have contributed for years and are working hard to get a new job can find themselves sanctioned, and driven to food banks.
“There are now huge holes in the welfare safety net that whole families are falling through.
“And Jobcentre staff have been forced to moved away from providing positive help to meeting sanctions targets in a culture that is too often about bullying both frontline staff and claimants.”
> But some Jobcentre staff actually appear to revel in their new powers – many of us will have them in action. I kind of resent the way they’re now trying to reposition themselves as victims.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 03 Mar 2015
> It would be interesting to know how many PCS members have participated in handing out sanctions… and how many have refused to. I suspect its a lot of the former and very few of the latter. I think that if Serwotka really cared he might have attempted to oppose the sanctions regime before now.
Reposted from Public & Commercial Services (PCS) website
Evidence to MPs on benefits sanctions
Our general secretary Mark Serwotka and DWP vice president Helen Flanagan (@Shenanigans_PCS) appeared this morning before the work and pensions select committee.
Giving evidence to the work and pensions select committee’s inquiry into sanctions, our general secretary Mark Serwotka said this is “corrupting” the work our members are trying to do.
Mark was appearing alongside our Department for Work and Pensions vice president Helen Flanagan. The committee had previously published our written submission to the inquiry.
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Passport Office workers in Durham are on strike today over staff shortages.
The Public and Commercial Services union voted for the strike after extra staff were drafted in to deal with a 30,000 backlog in applications.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The staffing crisis in the Passport Office has been obvious for everyone to see and it shouldn’t have taken a committee of MPs to force the chief executive to meet us to discuss it.
“We are still a long way off getting a commitment from the agency that it will work with us to put the proper resources in place to ensure these backlogs do not reoccur year after year.”
HM Passport Office Chief Executive Paul Pugh said the 775,000 applications received in June had been the highest ever recorded in a single month and denied claims the agency was in disarray.
This article was written by Kevin Rawlinson, for The Guardian on Friday 21st March 2014 19.29 UTC
Just 48,000 people have found long-term jobs under the government’s flagship work programme during its near three-year life, official figures have revealed.
The statistic calls into question the efficacy of a system the government has insisted would help millions back into work
The 48,000 figure – revealed in data published by the Department for Work and Pensions – refers to the number of people who have found jobs through the scheme and stayed in them long enough to merit the maximum bonus paid to contractors for their remaining in employment.
But figures released by the department in November last year showed that in the year to October 2013, unemployed people were sanctioned for “misconduct” 242,973 times.
The sanctions imposed in the 12 months after the DWP overhaul of the system in October 2012 were for “failure to participate in a scheme for assisting person to obtain employment without good reason”.
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, sanctions usually involve jobseekers allowance payments being stopped for periods of between four weeks and three years. It added that, in some cases, the payments can be reduced instead.
Under the work programme, the DWP pays its contractors “job outcome payments” when claimants find work. It then pays greater bonuses – called “sustainment payments” – the longer the claimant stays in a job, up to a maximum figure.
The department’s data showed that the maximum available sustainment payment has been made nearly 48,000 times since the work programme was launched in June 2011. That represents only 3.2% of the 1.5 million people the DWP said have been referred to the work programme in total.
Its report said: “A proportion of these achieved this within 104 weeks of referral and left the scheme, with the others remaining in employment after the 104-week point.”
It added that, in all, 352,000 claimants have completed their 104 weeks on the programme, but remained on benefits at the end and went back to their jobcentres. The DWP pointed to figures showing that it paid nearly 252,000 job outcome payments to reward contractors who helped move claimants into jobs overall – albeit for shorter periods.
“Ministers have very serious questions to answer about this scheme, not least why there have been five times more sanctions applied than jobs found for people,” said the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, Mark Serwotka.
> Perhaps he should be telling us why his members in Jobcentres are also dishing out sanctions like they were going out of fashion ?
He added: “The privatised work programme has been an unmitigated failure and has actually hampered the chances of people finding work, not helped.”
A DWP spokesman said: “More than a quarter of a million jobseekers have escaped long-term unemployment and found lasting work – normally at least six months – through the work programme. That’s a quarter of a million people whose lives have been transformed.”
> A job lasting 6 months will transform your life ? I’ve done them – they don’t.
Employment Minister Esther McVey added: “As the economy continues to grow, the work programme is successfully helping people to turn their lives around so they can look after themselves and their families.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 22 March 2014
> A masterful summing up of the current situation, by John Wight.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are engaged in the widespread bullying and intimidation of benefit claimants in Jobcentres up and down the country.
The evidence can no longer be denied and the union’s leadership must now take steps to educate its members that solidarity is more than just a word on a leaflet during a PCS pay dispute, or else face the accusation of collaborating with the government’s vicious assault on the most economically vulnerable in society under the rubric of austerity.
The upsurge in the number of claimants having their benefits sanctioned for increasingly minor infractions correlates to the upsurge in the demand for the services of the nation’s food banks. This shocking revelation was contained in a report by MPs in January, the result of an investigation by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which called for an independent review into the rules for sanctioning claimants to ensure that the rules are being applied “fairly and appropriately“.
Among its findings the report stated: “Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied.
The report continued: “Some witnesses were concerned that financial hardship caused by sanctioning was a significant factor in a recent rise in referrals to food aid. The report recommends that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by sanctions.”
The majority of Jobcentre staff are members of the 270,000 strong PCS, the sixth largest trade union in the country, which represents the majority of Britain’s civil servants and public sector workers.
The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, has been a high profile and strong critic of the coalition’s austerity policies in recent years, appearing on numerous public platforms and a ubiquitous presence in the mainstream press making the case for an investment led recovery from recession and calling for mass opposition to the cuts that have ravaged the public sector and been accompanied by a concerted campaign of demonisation of the unemployed and economically vulnerable that is unparalleled in its viciousness.
It is a campaign that has largely succeeded in diverting the blame for the worst recession to visit these shores since the 1930s onto the poor. Meanwhile the rich, whose greed lies at the root of the nation’s economic woes, have seen their wealth and incomes increase over the course of the recession, evidence that austerity and economic and social injustice are one and the same.
It is unconscionable that any self respecting trade union would allow its members to engage in the wilful and systematic sanctioning of benefit claimants without meaningful resistance. It flies in the face of the very principle of social solidarity that is the cornerstone of a movement founded on the understanding that the interests of working people – employed and unemployed – are intrinsically the same.
The human despair not to mention humiliation being inflicted on people in the nation’s Jobcentres is evidence that the Tory campaign of dividing working people section by section has borne fruit. It has reached the point where the oppressive atmosphere found in your average Jobcentre is on a par with the oppressive atmosphere associated with a district or sheriff court.
Jobseekers are not criminals and those sanctioning them so readily are not parole officers, yet you could be easily mistaken in thinking they are after spending just a few minutes in a Jobcentre in any town or city up and down the country.
Enough is enough.
This shameful culture of bullying, harassment, and intimidation against the unemployed must be confronted by the leadership of the PCS as a matter of urgency. By no means are all PCS members working in Jobcentres guilty of this shameful behaviour and treatment of claimants – indeed many are low paid workers reliant on various benefits to survive themselves – but enough are involved in the practice to leave no doubt that we are talking about an institutional problem rather than the actions of a few rotten apples.
Making matters worse is the fact that many of those being sanctioned are being trapped due to mental health issues or language issues making them more vulnerable to violating the plethora of rules regarding the obligations they must fulfil when it comes to searching for work. Many are being sanctioned for turning up five minutes late to a scheduled appointment, regardless of the reason why.
The sheer barbarity of this is staggering, plunging people who are already living on the margins into extreme poverty and destitution. In some cases suicide has been the result.
Those PCS members involved would do well to imbibe the words of the American union leader Eugene Debs: “…years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
Any trade union member who allows him or herself to be used as an instrument to attack the poor and the unemployed is deserving of contempt. And any trade union leadership that fails to act to prevent it happening is reactionary.
Source – Huffington Post, 25 Feb 2014