The Department of Work and Pensions London Regional Committee of the PCS union has issued the following statement and is appealing for support from other trade unions.
In the London region of the Department Of Works and Pensions (DWP) we face a projected cut in staffing of nearly 2,000 between now and 1st April 2006. The members who remain in employment, are facing increased work pressures and many are coming under pressure to transfer from offices at one end of the greater London region to the other – for the privilege of the low wages handed out by the DWP.
The DWP London region job loss is part of Gordon Brown’s plan to cut one in five civil service jobs over the next few years. Much of the consequential reorganisation of the civil service is clearly a prelude to yet more privatisation under New Labour.
The DWP London Region Committee is aware, of course, that job cuts, low pay and privatisation are not peculiar to PCS members. We are also know that New Labour intends to press on with its attacks upon public sector pensions, at best offering to strengthen the "reserved rights" elements of their public sector pensions to avert a widespread public sector dispute.
Whilst we note the formal unity of public sector General Secretaries in the negotiations over pensions we believe that general secretary unity without a corresponding unity at branch and other levels of the movement is a weakness. Moreover we believe restricting public sector union unity to the issue of pensions alone is to let ourselves down.
Low pay means that thousands of members retire on low pensions. Local Government workers have an average pension of just £3,800 a year (£73pw) and civil servants just £4,800 per year (£92pw). Tens of thousands of members will live their pension years struggling to make ends meet. Continuing job cuts and privatisation will mean that many of our members will not gain much benefit, if any, from the defence of public sector pensions.
We believe there is a much wider industrial and political basis for a public sector alliance when:
• jobs are being slashed across much of the public sector;
• privatisation is continuing;
• wages remain low;
• the two tier workforce is continuing and arguably has been extended into the heart of the public sector with the recent pension deal;
• low occupational pensions will leave members reliant on an increasingly abysmal state pension to get through life;
• the destruction of the better private sector pension schemes, and the poverty of so many pensioners reliant on the state scheme, will leave public sector workers’ permanently vulnerable to a divide and rule policy.
The first planning meeting will be held on Saturday 28 January 2006, Exmouth Arms, Starcross Street, London NW1, 12 noon.
PCS London Regional DWP do not want this initiative to be ours alone but one we share and build with other labour movement bodies. Please build unity across the public sector.
Contact Christine Hulme