From rumour, a joint statement with DWP management and from individual Socialist Party (SP) comrades, it is clear that the SP dominated DWP GEC is now contemplating balloting members on a deal which would mean compulsory late working during the ‘normal’ working week and Saturday working. This deal would not increase the number of hours worked in a week but would allow the department to have flexibility over when those hours would be worked; in other words it would eliminate overtime in DWP.
This deal would rob staff of the ability to have a weekend, either to relax, to be with the kids etc. It would mean that the notion of free time would be eroded and that ‘our time’ would become ‘their time’. It would mean a major retreat in our terms and conditions. So why would supposedly self avowed Marxists be willing to contemplate a deal that is so clearly advantageous to the employer.
For us there are a number of reasons.
Firstly we mustn’t forget that the SP, at least in PCS, are hypocrites. Whilst formally having a position that full time officials should be on a workers wages, that full time officials should be elected etc, in reality they have resisted all attempts to reduce FTO pay or to have them elected. Of course there is much self-interest here. Given the increasing numbers of SP comrades who have become FTOs, along with their friends, it’s in the SP’s interest not to see reduced wages or have elections as they would be materially affected by such changes. So it is perfectly possible for the SP to say one thing but do another.
Then we mustn’t forget that the SP is desperate for something it can claim is a victory. Since coming to power over 10 years ago the SP has not won one material lasting benefit for members. The only thing that they could claim was the two tier pension deal (where they deliberately negotiated a deal where new starters would have a higher retirement age than existing members – please remember that next time you hear them attack the government for raising pension ages). Of course as predicted by us that deal didn’t last and now they have nothing to triumph.
So they are desperate to show they make a difference, that it is worthwhile to be in PCS. That is why their comrades are beginning to tell members that the deal ‘breaks’ the government pay policy; without anyone having to take strike action (apparently it is the 5,000 letters written by members to DWP ‘wot own it’). Of course this is nonsense. The government pay policy allows higher than 1% pay increases if ‘work force reforms’ are agreed. These deals though have to self-financed. Our strong hunch is that eliminating overtime saves DWP so much money that the deal is not just not merely self-financing but actually makes DWP money.
Lastly, and the same dilemma faces us as well, is that we have a split workforce on multiple terms and conditions. There are those for whom Saturday working is allowed’. Therefore there maybe those who would benefit from the deal in the sense they would get more than at present for something they are liable to do already.
Well we are opposed to generalised Saturday working and will be working for a ‘No’ vote in any ballot. Certainly in the upcoming election we will be standing on a ‘No’ platform. We will be demanding that the SP publish the terms of the deal in advance of the election and if they are in favour of it then they should stand on a ‘Yes’ platform. That way members will have a clear choice before them.
If DWP want a radical change in our contracts then that should be separated off from this year’s pay round; the contract negotiation should deal with all aspects of the contract, not just items that DWP wants; so we should open up the attendance policy, facility time, performance related pay etc. The contract negotiation should be done as a partnership between the GEC and members/activists; not in secret.
It would be better if the SP also rejected the deal and argued for a ‘No’ vote. We don’t expect that but we can hope. But whatever happens we are clear that no one should be forced to work over the weekend. The unions won the weekend; let’s not sell it.