14 December 2021

The impact of austerity and the pandemic on DWP BME members

The DWP group black members’ advisory committee is extremely concerned about the real impact pay stagnation has had on BME members. Bash Chilwan talks more about this.

It is shameful that the government pays its own workers such low pay that some staff are forced to claim UC, a benefit many PCS members deliver. Like other public sector workers, DWP staff have faced pay freezes and below inflation pay rises for over 10 years, resulting in year on year erosion in living standards.

Austerity equates to some of our members being paid just above minimum wage. DWP’s own data highlights BME members are in the lowest grades, thereby suffering most on pay and pensions.

The UC uplift of £20 made a significant daily difference. The recent cut to this is grossly unfair, again having a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable. BME members will be hit hard. 

The recently announced increase in National Insurance contributions of 1.25%, due to take effect from April 2022, will mean a further pay cut. 

The rate of inflation recently jumped from 2% to 3.2% and experts are expecting further rises in inflation. Substantial utility bill increases, higher fuel costs, the spectre of interest rate hikes, as well as above inflation rent increases mean further tangible hardship.

It is no exaggeration that sadly some members have to rely on food banks and pay day loans to survive; a truly shocking indictment of modern Britain and the state of public sector pay.

For our BME members and their families, the pandemic made matters worse, not just the increased risk of getting Covid whilst not being classed as vulnerable, but also on job security. A recent TUC analysis of new ONS employment figures shows the unemployment rate among BME workers has risen at three times the speed of non BME workers. Many of these will be in our BME members’ households. If you are BME the detriment is manyfold. This is simply unacceptable.

All DWP members worked relentlessly through the peak of the pandemic and beyond, delivering vital services to the most vulnerable. Mere words with thanks for key workers from those in leadership are not enough. It does not put food on the table or pay your bills. This must now be followed through with a fair and meaningful pay rise. The PCS demand for a 10% rise is reasonable and just, and is long overdue. 

We must all play a part in our union's pay campaign in the weeks and months ahead. We all deserve better. Together we are stronger. Let's ensure we make our message strong and clear. We deserve fair pay.