Tag: Mark Serwotka

Public and Commercial Services Union wins £3 million compensation from the Department for Work and Pensions

Image result for PCS union

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has won a major victory over the government. The High Court has ruled that ministers acted illegally by withdrawing check-off, the decades-old practice of collecting members’ union subscriptions directly from their pay packet.

The union has won £3 million from the government because of the illegal moves the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) used to try to ‘crush’ the PCS.

In 2015 the union was at the heart of opposition to the government, fighting against the government’s cuts and closures andchallenging when the Conservatives were robbing members of their redundancy rights. The union were steadfast in opposing austerity.

As a result the then Conservative Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, took a particularly vicious and authoritarian decision to attack members’ terms and conditions, also launching an offensive on union reps and attempting to bankrupt the PCS. Maude announced overnight that he would not allow members to pay their union subscriptions directly from their pay packets. However, this was a system that had been in operation for many decades. A union spokesperson said he did that because he knew that 90% of the union’s  income came from that method.

Magnificent campaign

PCS say: “In a magnificent campaign we signed up over 160,000 members to pay their subs by direct debit in a matter of weeks and months to stop us from going bankrupt and to ensure we could continue to represent members at work. We also took legal action in the High Court to show that the government had acted illegally, and to get compensation. Today that case has been settled and in a humiliating defeat for the government, in its attempt to smash PCS and other unions in the public sector, it has to pay £3 million compensation and all of our legal costs.

“In the DWP, reps and members worked hard together to ensure that PCS didn’t suffer as a result of check-off ending. Fran Heathcote, DWP President said ‘Our members recognised this attack for what it was, and it is pleasing to learn that the courts have recognised that too’.

“We now plan to take legal action against every major government department because of the illegal way they’ve treated us.”

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Today’s announcement tells us we have settled one departmental case on union busting, we have many more to come. That’s good news for all of us, and now we’ll ensure we use that money to benefit our members.

“This goes to show that this union can win. We can win in the courts and we can win through campaigning. We’ve defeated the government on the Civil Service Compensation Scheme and we’re waiting for the outcome of a judicial review on the way the government handled pay this year because we believe they did not consult us lawfully. But we’ve got more campaigns to fight. We’ve still got to challenge the government on pay, and ensure that next year we can win above inflation pay rises.

“We will continue to take them to court when we can, but the key to winning is to be a stronger union in every workplace. If you know a colleague who hasn’t joined PCS, please urge them to join. If you’re a member consider becoming a rep. The more of us who are in the union, the more of us who are active means we won’t just beat the government in court we will beat them in our campaigning, too.”

I say well done. A splendid, well fought victory.

 

Related

Why I strongly support Trade Unionism

The link between Trade Unionism and equality

The “Let Lynton Lobby Bill” – Grubby Partisan Politics and a Trojan Horse

 


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DWP Staff Gifted £42 Million in ‘Bonus Bonanza’.

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At a time when the Conservatives have inflicted draconian cuts on those needing financial support because of illness, disability or losing their job, justifying this by their claim of “economic necessity” and the need to “live within our means” to “pay down the debt”, which is increasing rather than decreasing, the “responsibilities” imposed by the Tory austerity measures apply only to those with the very least.

Meanwhile, Whitehall bureaucrats, many involved in the implementation of the punitive welfare cuts, pocketed more than £90million in hand-outs last year.

Figures obtained by The Huffington Post UK show that in the year to April, 12 Government departments forked out £89.4million in bonuses to staff.

The most rewarding was Department for Work and Pensions, overseen by Iain Duncan Smith, which handed out £42.1million in bonuses to its staff – £38.1million of which went to Senior Civil Servants. And these figures only relate to 12 out of the 20 Government departments, meaning the total bonus figure could soar to almost £140million if the average pay out of almost £7million per department continues.

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, who uncovered the figures, said: “For all his talk of belt-tightening, these figures show that David Cameron is happy to splash the cash on bonuses.

“Whilst the NHS is in crisis, this bonus bonanza would pay for thousands of new nurses.”

In 2012, the then Treasury minister Danny Alexander vowed to end bonuses for “run of the mill performance” as the coalition Government slashed departmental budgets.

Since 2010-11 the Government says it has restricted awards for senior civil servants to the “top 25 per cent of performers.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union called for the bonus system to be scrapped.

He said: “It is unfair and favours the already well paid. The money should be put towards decent pay rises, especially considering that since 2010 rank and file civil servants have seen their real incomes fall by 20 per cent.”

Prospect, a union for professionals, defended the civil service workers and he claimed the focus on bonuses is a “distraction” from the drop in take home pay of many civil servants.

Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “Pay in the private sector is increasingly buoyant with average increases running at more than 3.5 per cent. Civil servants have been told that average increases will be capped at 1 per cent until 2020.

“Pay rates in the private sector outstrip those of the public sector – and that gap is only forecast to increase, creating real problems in recruiting and retaining staff, particularly the professional specialists and managers Prospect represents.

“Many, if not all of our members would happily forgo the opportunity to earn a bonus in return for a decent and fair increase to their base pay.

“Government has created the bonus culture in the civil service, not the staff. And only 1 per cent of the civil service paybill is spent on bonuses.”

In a statement alongside his department’s figures, Work and Pensions Minister Justin Tomlinson said: “In line with Civil Service pay guidance, DWP rewards employees for their performance through either end of year non-consolidated payments and/or in-year payments. In year payments are limited to 0.23 per cent of the total DWP paybill.

I can’t help wondering what indicators are used to measure “performance,” and what actually constitutes “good performance.”

This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.

Department for Work and Pensions officials admit to using fake claimant’s comments to justify benefit sanctions

From the Welfare Weekly site.


Government officials have admitted that claimant’s comments used in an official benefit sanctions information leaflet were “for illustrative purposes only”.

The revelation comes in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Welfare Weekly, in which the site authors questioned whether the comments used in the leaflet were of a genuine or fake nature.

Welfare Weekly asked the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide any evidence or information to prove that the comments used in the publication were from “genuine” claimants.

Within days of submitting their request to the DWP, the original information leaflet suddenly disappeared from the government’s website without explanation.

However, Welfare Weekly had already downloaded a copy of the leaflet (pdf) in anticipation of the response to our FOI request.

That leaflet included comments from two sickness benefit claimants who had supposedly been affected by benefit sanctions, Zac and Sarah.

Source: DWP
Source: DWP

According to the leaflet, Zac had said:

“I let my work coach know in advance that I couldn’t go to our meeting because I had a hospital appointment.

I had a good reason for not going to the meeting and proof of the appointment. My benefit payment hasn’t changed and we booked another meeting I could get to.”

While Susan had allegedly said:

“I didn’t think a CV would help me but my work coach told me that all employers need one. I didn’t have a good reason for not doing it and I was told I’d lose some of my payment. I decided to complete the CV and told my work coach.

I got a letter to say my benefit would go down for two weeks. I was told it was longer than a week because I missed a meeting with my work coach back in March.

My benefit is back to normal now and I’m really pleased with how my CV looks. It’s going to help me when I’m ready to go back to work.”

However, Welfare Weekly have revealed that neither of these comments came from genuine Employment and Support Allowance claimants.

Both comment’s were completely made up and included to “help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions”, according to the DWP.

The response to Welfare Weekly’s Freedom of Information request reads:

“The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants.

The stories are for illustrative purposes only.

We want to help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions. Using practical examples can help us achieve this.

We have temporarily changed the pictures to silhouettes and added a note to make it more clear that these are illustrative examples only.

We will test both versions of the factsheet with claimants and external stakeholders to further improve it in the future. This will include working with external organisations.”

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The DWP have used comments and accounts that are untrue in a blatant attempt to justify the use of cruel and punitive welfare sanctions, and to invalidate the experiences of genuine claimants in distress and material hardship because of sanctions. The revelation is particularly controversial because the sanctions system is causing extreme hardship,  sometimes, death, and is being operated in an unfair and arbitrary way.

 Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, said:

“It’s disgraceful and sinister that the DWP has been trying to trick people into believing claimants are happy to have their benefits stopped or threatened. Sanctions are unnecessarily punitive and counterproductive, and should be scrapped.”

The institute that is responsible for regulating the behaviour of organisations producing public relations material – the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) – has launched an investigation into whether any of its members were involved in producing the document of lies.

CIPR president Sarah Pinch said:

“Falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support is a naive and opaque technique which blatantly disregards the CIPR’s standards of ethical conduct. It is deeply disappointing if public relations professionals allowed it to be published.”

I’ve written at length about the adverse consequences of increased benefit conditionality and sanctioning elsewhere on this site. See Despotic paternalism and punishing the poor. Can this really be England?  This is a blatant attempt to normalise an exceptionally punitive political approach to “supporting people into work” using social norming techniques, amongst others.

I’ve also written about the fact that we have a government formulating policy that does not address economic, structural and political causes of poverty, instead the aim is to bring about “behavioural changes” within the population – particularly amongst the poorest and the most vulnerable social groups – to suit the anti-welfare ideology of New Right Conservatism, ministers seem to have forgotten that democratically elected governments are meant to address the needs of a population, rather than the converse being true. This despicable tactic was aimed at hiding the truth: sanctions have a devastating impact on people’s lives, as the benefit being removed is calculated at a rate to meet only basic needs, such as food, fuel and shelter in the first place.

In a democratic, rights-based society, we ought to expect that the public are not stigmatised and “acted upon,” using techniques of persuasion ordinarily reserved for the advertising and marketing industry, and by the deployment of propaganda and outright lies by the government, in order to fulfil purely ideological directives. Governments serve the public, in first-world Liberal democracies.

We call a political system where the public are expected and directed to accommodate the government’s needs “totalitarianism.”

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Are you willing to share your experience of benefit sanctions? 38 Degrees are asking people to share their sanction stories, if you would be happy for it to be used publicly. 38 degrees will ensure all contributions are published using first names only.  Please click here to participate in the Speak Out survey and campaign.

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Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for the image.