Health & safety

John Moloney's column: Strike ballot in DWP

Around 800 workers in Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) job centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Merseyside, Sunderland, and Washington will be balloted for action over health and safety concerns. We’re also empowering members to take immediate action to refuse unsafe work using Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act, issuing members with pro forma letters they can use with their bosses. The ballot will likely begin on or around Tuesday 27 October, which will set up the possibility of industrial action in early November. Union pressure and the threat of a national ballot already secured...

Letters: What about musicians?; Full employment; NEU can prepare strikes

Full employment In the arguments about job cuts, we need Full Employment as the driver of economic policy across the board, not profitability, financial markets, or the growing wealth of the richest. Sunak says we will have to put up with millions of unemployed to “save the economy”. He does get criticised by Labour and left for not supporting jobs, but the fundamental idea that you can separate the health of the economy from the number unemployed has been internalised by the labour movement after 40 years of neoliberalism. Full Employment speaks to general working-class consciousness as a...

Keeping schools as safe as possible

Schools are large institutions which are fully open. In most there is little possibility of social distancing and the wearing of face-coverings is impossible during lessons and difficult at other times. The virus is being spread in schools, albeit at possibly a lower rate than other institutions. Last week in my London borough there were around 15-20 schools where Year Group bubbles had been closed, the majority with more than one Year Group closed. We have had already had two schools in the borough closing entirely for two weeks. The situation is far worse in other parts of the country. It is...

Winning more in DWP (John Moloney's column)

Negotiations with bosses in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), over plans to extend job centre opening hours and increase the number of in-person interviews with claimants, are ongoing. The union position is clear; we believe these proposals will put both workers and claimants at risk. Further concessions have now been offered, including devolving some of the decision-making down to individual workers. This means DWP job coaches could make a decision about whether they need to see a claimant in person, or if they could speak to them remotely. That is a meaningful concession, although...

Some gains at NEU conference

The National Education Union (NEU) held an online Special Conference on 3 October. Over 600 people attended, with around 550 delegates. Conference voted on various rule changes. They were not taken as a job lot, as I wrongly reported in Solidarity 565. The rule change to allow the General Secretaries to extend their tenure beyond five years, if they had announced they were retiring, was withdrawn due to rank and file pressure. In a significant victory for the left of the union, the proposal to reduce the executive from 70 to 55 failed to get the two-thirds majority required, following strong...

Concessions won in DWP (John Moloney's column)

Bosses in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have offered a number of concessions in our ongoing dispute about Job Centre opening hours and arrangements. The union’s Group Executive Committee for the DWP meets on Monday 5 October to consider these concessions and decide the next steps. If the GEC decides the offer isn’t adequate, the dispute will continue and likely move to a formal ballot for industrial action. We need a comprehensive settlement that covers the whole department, on an indefinite basis. There’s been some suggestion that decisions around opening times and arrangements...

Scrap "conditionality"! (John Moloney's column)

The Group Executive Committee for our members in the Department for Work and Pensions met on Tuesday 22 September to discuss the results of a recent indicative ballot of Job Centre workers, which returned a big majority for industrial action against extended opening hours and other unsafe working conditions. Although a final decision has yet to be made, there are now active discussions about moving to a formal, statutory, ballot for action. The general picture, in terms of civil service bosses’ “back-to-the-office” push, has changed since new restrictions were brought in and the Prime Minister...

Letters: US election; Exams and algorithms; Ballot school workers?

Help defeat Trump Socialists in the US should be trying to build a working-class campaign to throw Trump out of power. In the last six months the Trump Administration has moved decisively in the direction of open fascism. Violent racist, transphobic and anti-left rhetoric was always part of his repertory. Since the start of the pandemic and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests that has stepped up decisively. Trump has effectively celebrated far right shootings of anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter protesters. He encourages followers to take up arms against BLM and Antifa. He is...

Statutory ballot in DWP? (John Moloney's column)

The consultative ballot of our members in Job Centres returned an overwhelming majority in favour of industrial action over safety concerns. The union's Group Executive Committee for the Department for Work and Pensions meets on Tuesday 22 September and will discuss whether to proceed to a formal, statutory ballot, which they're very likely to do. Anyone who was wavering on whether action is necessary is likely to have been galvanised by events in recent days. Management is increasing the number of claimants required to attend physical meetings at Job Centres, which is a huge risk given...

Schools: build health and safety committees

At the end of our first week back from school summer holidays a colleague of mine rang the parents of a Year 8 boy in her tutor group. The boy had done very well in school, and was clearly delighted to be back with his friends. So my colleague talked to the boy’s dad and told him how well the boy had been doing in class. The boy’s dad burst into tears. Presumably a mix of relief, intense long-term worry, and happiness, all coming to the surface at once. The kids really need to be back in class. That the Tories are saying it does not make it any less true. And the parents need to see their...

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