In normal circumstances this office closure would not be a controversial decision as the work, plus affected staff, could move to another site within the vicinity. However, previously on 28 February 2019, DWP cynically had announced its decision to “move any work out of London that does not need to be done there” and to “only maintain a network of jobcentres across London”.
PCS negotiators have met with the department on several occasions since both of those announcements seeking to find other options in order to provide alternative work for the members in Balham. We have suggested moving the staff and their specialised skills to the nearby Croydon government hub (where there is adequate space) or to seek alternative premises in the Balham area. On every occasion we are met with a stony silence from DWP officials who merely wave their piece of paper stating, “processing work is to move out of London”.
The department has now announced a voluntary redundancy scheme for those at risk of redundancy when the Balham office closes. This is based on the 2010 Civil Service Compensation Scheme terms. In another act of cynicism, departmental officials are refusing to inform staff as to what the future holds for them if they reject VER, merely stating that “you could leave yourself at risk of compulsory redundancy”.
Martin Cavanagh, DWP group president, stated “the treatment of our members in Balham by DWP is nothing short of disgraceful”. He went on to say that the group executive committee would “fight tooth and nail to save the jobs of members in Balham”.
A number of meetings have been held with members, some of whom are expressing their disbelief that DWP are acting in such a callous manner. Many of the members have made clear their desire to remain in work but are in despair at the lack of professional support from their employer. At this present time there are 119 staff facing the threat of compulsory redundancy.
The group executive committee is working closely with PCS London regional officials in order to mount a sustained campaign to protect our members’ jobs in Balham. This includes seeking a meeting with MPs whose constituencies cover the London area. We are also seeking a meeting with the Mayor of London, whose previous constituency encapsulated the Balham area.