Universal Credit Workers Strike
March 11, 2019
Despite only being part way through its introduction, the Tories’ Universal Credit has already become notorious for lengthy delays of several weeks experienced by people claiming it. The problems of a system designed to punish the poor have been compounded by a lack of staff being employed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to process claims.
On Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th March workers at (DWP) offices in Wolverhampton and Walsall struck over the excessive workloads being created by introduction of Universal Credit. The PCS civil service union is calling for an additional 5000 jobs to be created nationwide to deal with the current backlog of claims, and an end to the rampant use of short term contracts.
Socialist Party members were on the picket line with them. 15 strikers gathered outside the Wolverhampton office, in spite of senior management standing on the gate to tempt people in with promises of chocolate and pizza! There were reports of workers being forced to go back on the phones despite being signed off taking calls due to poor health (made worse by the unmanageable call volume in the first place!) . Another commented “I’ve been in the sector for over 30 years and whenever the Government tries to simplify anything, it ends up in a mess”.
Meanwhile in Walsall over 20 turned out in what one activist described as the biggest turnout he’d seen on a picket in 15 years working there. Members were looking forward to the prospect of more workplaces joining the action, and linking it up with the union’s campaign for a living pay increase of 10% to combat the chronic low pay in the civil service which means over 10,000 DWP staff will be on Universal Credit once existing tax credit claimants are moved on to it.
The Socialist Party locally and nationally has been campaigning to replace Universal Credit with a living benefit and a £10 an hour minimum wage. We’ll continue to work to link up claimants with those workers on the other end of the phone lines to build a campaign to defeat this and the rest of the Tories’ vicious attacks on the working class.