Whitehall is facing the prospect of having to shed as many as 100,000 jobs over the next five years, the union representing senior civil servants has said.
The head of the FDA, Dave Penman, said he expected the Conservative government to continue primarily targeting staffing levels as it makes yet more swingeing cuts to public spending, leading to an even greater round of public sector job cuts than those under the coalition.
He said that, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)’s analysis of the chancellor’s autumn statement, only 40% of the total cuts expected between the election of the coalition government in 2010 and the next general election in 2020 had been made.
Those cuts had come at the cost of around 80,000 jobs, Penman said, leading him to believe that the remaining 60% would cost a further 100,000.
“The DWP could lose 20,000 to 30,000 staff, the HMRC could lose 10,000 to 15,000 … it is greater cuts than over the last five years and most of that is based around staffing, so it is not surprising.
“That is what the civil service is expecting, it is certainly what we are expecting. We are back to the 1930s level of spending.”
The former cabinet office minister Francis Maude led a round of job losses over the last parliament, prompting the Public and Commercial Services Union to accuse him of showing “enthusiasm for cutting jobs”.
Penman said that he wanted the government to be honest about what it could deliver if it went ahead with its plans to squeeze the civil service.
“We are saying you need to match commitments with resources – you can’t just cut that amount, then say ‘get on with it’.”
But he said that the FDA could not stop “an elected government from cutting the size of the civil service when they have been elected to do so”.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said:
“The minister will set out his priorities for this parliament in due course. Anything else at this stage, one week into his tenure, is purely speculation but all is working well so far and we have a strong, cohesive centre.”
Source – The Guardian, 18 May 2015
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has condemned the Government’s decision to privatise part of the administration of Universal Credit.
Private firm Capita will be gifted with the responsibility for booking initial work search interviews for new Universal Credit claimants.
Capita is currently facing a second inquiry into a £1.5bn Whitehall jobs contract, which small companies claim could leave them facing financial ruin.
A press release on the union’s website reads:
“Their intention is that the process for booking the appointment for a claimant’s initial work search interview will be handed to the private company Capita. No DWP staff will be transferred to Capita under this proposal.
“There is no justifiable business reason for doing this. DWP claim that Capita will be able to make these appointments at weekends for claimants who make a claim online at a weekend, but in practice the appointments could just as well be done by DWP staff the following Monday, as has happened up to now.
“Capita already have been handed the same task for claims to Jobseekers Allowance and this announcement extends that arrangement to Universal Credit claims.
“PCS has protested strongly to DWP about this decision. Seeing their work privatised is a kick in the teeth for our hard working members.
“Members will also be understandably concerned that this privatisation is a foretaste of further private sector involvement in the delivery of Universal Credit.
“PCS has also made the point to the department that Capita is consistently failing to meet its key targets in relation to JSA First Contact calls that are currently out sourced to them. This failure contrasts with the DWP staff in CCS who are consistently meeting the very same targets.
“Again the failure of the private sector to out-perform the public sector has been ignored as the tired, false dogma of ‘private sector good, public sector bad’ is wheeled out once again.
“PCS will continue to argue against all privatisation of DWP work and will continue to campaign for all privatised work to be brought back in-house where it belongs.”
> Hear, hear – claimants should be harrassed by public sector, not private company , workers.
Jobcentres are, I would guess, high on the list for selling off to private companies if the Tories win the next election. Possibly if Labour win too.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Feb 2015
The quality of decision making for personal independence payment (PIP), is being called into question following the revelation that hundreds of staff without the proper experience and training are being temporarily promoted to the rank of PIP decision maker.
The promotions are being made because Atos and Capita have taken on many more health professionals to clear the backlog of PIP applications. Without hundreds more decision makers the bottleneck would simply move from the assessors to the decision makers.
According to the Public and Commercial Services union:
“Pressure of work continues to affect PIP members in other ways. There are high numbers of staff on temporary promotion: at one site 50 staff are on TDA [Temporary Duties Addition for staff acting up to a higher grade]. There is an expectation that even more Decision Makers will be needed as reassessment ramps up. Despite this, there are no permanent promotion opportunities. Transfers out of PIP are being blocked. There are reports of a harsh Managing Attendance regime at some sites.”
The mass promotions appear to be having an effect throughout the DWP:
“PCS were recently informed that the training for new apprentices has been very poor: they have been given just two weeks’ classroom training. When the apprentices start their consolidation there are very few Band B staff available to help them because so many staff are on TDA as Decision Makers.
“Training for all grades was reported as poor.”
With poorly trained and under qualified staff being drafted in as temporary decision makers, it is even more vital that the difficulties you face are spelt out as plainly and in as much detail as possible in your PIP application and backed up with supporting evidence where this is available.
Source – Benefits & Work, 02 Dec 2014
Thousands of North East workers are gearing up for one of the biggest days of industrial action in this country in years.
Teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants will join up with around 1.5 million colleagues nationwide in a 24-hour walk-out in a protest over pay, pensions and work conditions.
Bin collections will be suspended, council buildings including libraries will be closed and most controversially it will result in the sweeping closure of hundreds of schools across the region.
Mike McDonald, Regional Secretary of the NUT which has 20,000 members in the region, said: “Teachers are extremely reluctant to strike because of the impact on children’s education.
“However they feel that this current Government’s attacks on education will cause far more damage.
“Morale in the profession is at rock bottom, teachers are wasting hours on pointless paperwork and scores are quitting in their first years because of unmanageable workload, uncertain pay and worsening pensions.
“Children deserve teachers who are motivated, enthused and valued. Education Secretary Michael Gove would do well to engage properly with the profession and address teachers’ concerns to end this dispute.
“For teachers, performance-related pay, working until 68 for a full pension and heavy workload for 60 hours a week is unsustainable.”
The Fire Brigade Union is protesting at changes to firefighters’ pensions and a later retirement age.
Meanwhile the GMB, Unite, UNISON and the Public and Commercial Services Union are protesting over pay rates.
A pay freeze was imposed in 2010 for three years followed by a 1% increase last year and the same offer this year.
They say that represents an 18% fall in pay in real terms, back to the level of the 1990s.
Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s Deputy Regional Convenor and a local government employee said: “The pay offer from the local government employer is derisory in the extreme.
“This year’s pay offer would see 90% of school and local government workers receive a further pay cut. The offer of a 1% pay rise if you earn £7.71 per hour or more, or if you earn below that it is slightly more to take us just above the National Minimum Wage.
“This pay offer does not keep pace with price increases and our pensions will suffer. This pay offer is nowhere near enough.”
Karen Loughlin, the union’s Regional Lead Officer on Local Government, said: “Part-time workers – mainly women and more than half the local government workforce – have been particularly hard hit, with their hourly earnings now worth the same as they were 10 years ago.
“Many low paid part-time Local Government workers need benefits and tax credits to keep their families out of poverty.
“It is deeply disturbing to hear the continuing stories of Local Government workers resorting to food banks.
“UNISON is demanding a decent pay rise in recognition of the valuable role that our members perform in delivering public services to children, young people, the elderly and vulnerable in our communities.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The vast majority of dedicated public sector workers have not voted for this week’s strike action, so it is disappointing that the leadership of the unions are pushing for a strike that will achieve nothing and benefit no one. Union leaders are relying on mandates for action that lack authority – the National Union of Teachers is relying on a ballot run nearly two years ago.
“As part of our long-term economic plan, this Government has been taking tough decisions to address the budget deficit we inherited in 2010.
“One was to introduce pay restraint in the public sector, while protecting the lowest paid. Pay restraint protects public sector jobs, supports high-quality public services and helps put the UK’s finances back on track.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 July 2014
More than 100,000 people have backed a campaign to keep the Land Registry in public ownership.
The Government held a consultation on the future of the 150-year-old institution, which handles land and property data and employs more than 400 civil servants in Durham City, earlier this year, with critics warning privatisation, huge job cuts, loss of confidence and higher charges for the public could follow.
At the weekend, a national newspaper reported Business Secretary Vince Cable had vetoed any sell-off, said to be worth around £1.2bn, as ‘just too complicated’.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the Government would publish its response to the consultation shortly.
Now Durham City Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has joined Labour’s shadow business minister Toby Perkins, leaders of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and campaign group 38 Degrees in presenting a 100,000-name signature calling for the Registry to remain in the public sector to the Government.
Durham’s Land Registry office is said to be worth £10m a year to the local economy.
Dr Blackman-Woods said: “The Land Registry office in Durham provides many good jobs that we need locally and I don’t want this to be diminished in any way by potential privatisation.”
Reposted from the Bolton News
A WHISTLEBLOWER inside one of the government’s pilot centres for universal credit has warned how numerous errors will make a smooth introduction of the new system “highly unlikely”.
Staff at the service centre in Elizabeth House, Bolton town centre, have been involved in supporting the management of universal credit since it was piloted in Ashton-under-Lyne and Wigan last year.
Since then, a member of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, who has asked not to be named, told The Bolton News that employees have been leaving their jobs “in droves” after facing huge pressure to make an unworkable system fit for purpose.
Other issues included glitches with the computer system and inadequate training with staff only able to process a fraction of the claims they could under the old system.
The spokesman said: “The union has had to deal with more personal…
View original post 181 more words
> The PCS union may wring its hands and claim “we are only obeying orders” when it comes to its DWP members enforcing sanctions on the unemployed, but it seems other sections can get off their collective arse when it’s them likely to lose an income.
Workers who fear for their futures under a possible privatisation began a 48-hour strike today (Wednesday, May 14).
Staff at the Land Registry office in Durham City are among thousands of Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) members employed by the agency across the country who are taking action.
They are concerned that the Government agency is going to be privatised and that offices will be closed and jobs lost.
The Land Registry employs about 400 people in Durham , most of them PCS members, and is one of the city’s major employers.
PCS branch chairman Kim Lowes said: “We had a really good turn-out, in all about 30 people visited the picket line.
“We think it is the best-supported strike action we have had, certainly in my time at Durham Land Registry. We think upwards of 85 per cent of members were out.
“We have had national strikes in the past about pay and pensions but this one is different. This is potentially about the future of the Land Registry in Durham completely.
“If they go down the road of office closures and Durham is one of them, then nobody will be safe regardless of grade or how long they have worked there.
“There are an awful lot of families and couples in particular that work there that will lose both wage earners.
Ms Lowes said workers were concerned about the future quality of the service, treatment of personal data and charges under a private owner.
Source – Durham Times, 14 May 2014
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