I have a hard act to follow, as I saw first hand the work ethic and commitment that made Fran Heathcote an outstanding group president for DWP, but we have a good balance of experience and new faces elected to this year's GEC and I look forward to working with them as we seek to improve the lives of our members inside and outside the workplace.
The newly anointed prime minister, and his majority right-wing cabinet, will do little to ease the difficulties our members face, inside or outside of work, but we have a union committed to challenging inequality and injustice, both for our members and the public who use the services we deliver, and I aim to ensure our group plays a full part in our union's challenge to this government and its policies.
I was proud to have started my life as DWP president on the picket lines in Wolverhampton and Walsall at the end of May, supporting members in their dispute in Universal Credit. Those members are currently being re-balloted to renew their mandate to take further action, and the inspiration they have shown has led to members in Stockport UCSC being balloted alongside their colleagues in the West Midlands. Both branches and members across the three sites have our full support and the GEC looks forward to them getting past the anti-trade union ballot threshold, helping increase the pressure on the DWP to agree to our reasonable demands on staffing, workloads and working practices.
Equally important is our ongoing campaign to stop office closures, increasingly important as we get ever nearer to the decision on the "transitional" sites identified as part of the people and locations programme.
We have already seen early closures announced in Lichfield and Balham, due to the landlord fast-tracking their eviction notice, but unlike in the Midlands there is a real risk of redundancy in Balham and DWP is so far resisting PCS' demands for relocation and utilising available space in a nearby government hub, that would reduce such a risk.
Like their colleagues in UC the Balham members are currently being balloted for industrial action over their office closure and threat to jobs, and as with the UC sites, I send solidarity and full support on behalf the GEC to our members in South London.
I couldn't let my first column pass without a mention of pay. This addition of the group journal has a feature article on pay, so I won't go into too much detail, but I would urge all members to play a full and active part in the forthcoming campaign we will launch in DWP.
This year's offer is particularly devastating in my view, especially for those members who are already on or will be on the National Living Wage come the spring, and those AOs now paid less than our AA members. It is a disgrace that the Department for Work and Pensions have failed to address this dual outrage, as well as failing to deliver a meaningful review of ED payments, and taking money off the longest serving senior grades to load on to the grade minima, by refusing to go back to the Treasury for more money. We must respond and we need you, the members, to help us do it in a way that puts real pressure on DWP.
I urge you to put aside your views on employee deal or thoughts that DWP is a better employer than some out there; don't dwell on whether someone with a box 3 is getting the same as you who went the extra mile for a box 1; don't be fooled by the argument we agreed a 4-year deal so we have to just accept what the DWP and government give us until next year.
You deserve better, the government can afford to give you better, and no one does well out this year's pay offer.
Thank you once again for allowing me the honour of leading this group, that has been the vanguard of our union for so long.
Myself and my comrades on the GEC will provide the leadership, and if you work with us, collectively we can make a real difference and start winning again.