Heatseeking Strikes

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is threatening strike action over a "catastrophic breakdown" in services at the Department of Work and Pensions. The new IT system, designed to improve the payment of benefits and jobseeking for those without, has not proved beneficial, according to Mark Serwotka, the PCS General secretary. There is also the small matter of jobcuts:

The union blames a new IT system and the government's determination to see through its plans to slash 84,000 civil service jobs, first announced in 2004. The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, has repeatedly called on the government to halt the job cuts and review the impact on services. Around 40,000 jobs are believed to have gone so far.

Figures revealed by the union on the first day of the conference showed government targets for dealing with benefit claims were being missed.

If you establish an audit state, where targets become the measure of a department, is it any surprise if they become a lever for demanding more money and civil servants.

A survey carried out last month found that more than half of callbacks to new benefit applicants were missed during the course of a week. Almost three in five (58%) applicants were forced to start their claims again because of a failure to transfer their details electronically from call centres to Jobcentres, leading to delays in finding a job or receiving benefits.

They may even to serve their former colleagues. How embarrassing! Better strike to stop that. However, if gaining benefits proves a chaotic, arbitrary and incompetent process, some claimants may view other forms of obtaining money as more beneficial: mainly crime, unfortunately. Here's a thought: simplify the benefits system, reduce the number of eligible claimants and then you won't need such elaborate computer systems or so many staff.