PCS calls for strike over ‘victimised’ union rep

Jobcentre
and benefits office staff across central, west and north west London, began
voting on industrial action today.

Around
1,300 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are being urged
to vote for strike action, a work to rule and an overtime ban to prevent the
disciplining and possible dismissal of their branch secretary, Chris Ford, for
alleged misconduct during the Jobcentre Plus safety dispute.

Between
September 2001 and April 2002, 65,000 PCS members in Jobcentres and benefits
offices across England, Scotland and Wales staged a series of strikes to secure
an agreement on the safety of the new open-plan Jobcentre Plus offices.

Although
a number of allegations of misconduct on picket lines were submitted to the
Department for Work and Pensions, by both PCS and management, only those
involving Chris Ford have proceeded.

PCS
has also lodged complaint on the grounds that the eight-month investigation of
Chris Ford is seriously flawed, in breach of the departments own procedures and
a case of victimisation.

PCS
general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The long-running Jobcentre Plus
safety dispute was a difficult time for everyone involved but an agreement was
reached.

"Staff
have gone back to delivering jobs and benefits, and PCS is trying to work
constructively and positively for members.

"It
is extremely disappointing for our members to have to be considering strike
action to defend one PCS representative who is being singled-out and victimised
for his union activity.

"PCS
does not want to take strike action over this issue but management should be
under no illusion that if that is what it takes to defend a PCS representative
doing their job, we have no alternative."

By Quentin Reade

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