Jobcentres have re-opened to the public. Management have stated to the civil servants’ union PCS that just over half of jobcentres in London and Essex are open, although footfall remains extremely low.
PCS provided members with advice on their legal right to withdraw themselves from serious and imminent danger. As the national risk assessment, and therefore the risk assessment for each office, had not been signed off, PCS stated, “ (we are) not satisfied that the risk assessment is safe. PCS do not believe that all necessary safety arrangements are in place and the level of risk remains unacceptable.”
This was going to be a structure test for the union. Unfortunately it failed to deliver. On Monday evening 6 July a further all-DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] reps Zoom call was set up. When questioned, the Group President said that we are not aware of any member or group of members withdrawing themselves from the workplace.
There was criticism from the Greater Manchester branch that the union’s DWP Group Executive had not done enough to co-ordinate action centrally. To some degree that is correct, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Branches and members were provided with the information they needed to walk off the job, but that didn’t happen anywhere.
The advice now appears to have shifted to “Don’t volunteer”. But if management don’t get enough volunteers there is a danger they could start press ganging members. An e-mail has been sent to all staff in Peckham Jobcentre telling them just that.
There needs to be a serious conversation in PCS about what we need to do to rebuild our structures, our activist base and our density. Simply blaming those in leadership avoids that conversation.