Civil service union PCS has reacted with anger to the announcement that the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) has announced that it intends to close four sites in Wales by March 2018.
The Llanelli Service Centre will close causing the loss of 146 jobs in the town and the real threat of compulsory redundancies. Mark Evans, president of Llanelli trades council, said “The impact on Llanelli if the Benefit Centre shuts will be another major blow to the town. While DWP staff are hardly well paid, in comparison to what will be on offer to staff when they start looking for alternative employment. Many of the workers (mainly women) if they are successful in getting another job are likely to have to take a cut in income in the low wage economy of Llanelli. That was one of the reasons Llanelli Trades Council opposed this job slaughter.
“It is yet another example of Tory cuts to working class communities in order to line the pockets of the super rich. Llanelli Trades Council will continue to opposes and organise against Tory Austerity and we will be doing our upmost to ensure the Tories take an early bath.”
Three job centres at Pyle in Bridgend, Mountain Ash in the Cynon Valley and Tredegar in Blaenau Gwent will also close. Claimants in these areas face expensive bus journeys and long walks to sign on, increasing the risk of harsh sanctions for lateness or absence.
DWP also announced further office closures in Merthyr, Caerphilly, Cwmbran, Newport and Cardiff which will force 1700 workers to travel long and expensive distances to work every day sometimes involving three bus journeys each way. These plans also make large numbers of compulsory redundancies likely.
Katrine Williams, Chair of PCS Wales and Vice President of the PCS DWP Group, condemned the office closures. “The DWP should not be removing jobs and services from areas of high unemployment and threatening our members with the risk of redundancy. There is a massive amount of work and support that we need to deliver to the public and the best way to do this is with sites and our members based in the local communities.
“PCS will continue to fight all office closures that adversely impact jobs and services to the public.”
These closures would have been even worse but for an energetic campaign by PCS in the consultation phase that pushed the government back on some issues. The Porth office will close but instead of nearly 100 workers being re-located to Caerphilly they will move to Tonypandy two miles away so these valuable jobs will remain in the Rhondda valley. And the Caerphilly office should remain open for 2-4 years. The job centres earmarked for co-location with other organisations at Ystradgynlais, Newtown and Llandrindod Wells have been retained.
But these gains won by the PCS notwithstanding, the government still intends to uproot workers from local offices and relocate many of them in a secret new building in Treforest, near Pontypridd. The DWP bosses were left with red faces as the design for the new offices were discovered on an architect company’s website (see right), only to be hastily taken down as word spread. They had been kept secret through the consultation the plans to splash out millions on the new office which will replace the Merthyr, Newport, Cwmbran, Cardiff and Caerphilly offices.
Additional material was added on July 7th 2017