CIVIL servants overwhelmingly rejected a call to distance themselves from anti-sanctions protests yesterday, after it was alleged that activists had “intimidated” benefit clerks.
Jobcentre workers in Sheffield put a motion to PCS conference suggesting that protests in Halifax, west Yorkshire, had been “hijacked by a minority of individuals keen to cause unrest and accuse jobcentre staff of deliberately using the sanctions system to persecute benefit claimants.”
The motion asked for PCS to withdraw an anti-sanctions leaflet jointly produced with the Community division of general union Unite, which organises unemployed workers. It demanded that the PCS logo not be used on any future materials to be distributed at such demonstrations.
Sheffield delegate Ian Davis told delegates: “We cannot be seen to condone protests outside our offices where members face intimidation.
“We’ve had resignations among longstanding members, an impact on direct debit campaign which we cannot afford.” He said PCS members were online and subjected to “extreme verbal abuse.”
At one protest, PCS members offering support felt “so intimidated they had to leave,” he said.
But Leicestershire DWP delegate Tony Church called for the motion to be voted down, saying: “It’s that regime that’s responsible for putting our members at risk, rather than our logo on the leaflets.”
Helen Flanagan joined the opposition on behalf of the executive, saying that “the relationship between adviser and claimant is being poisoned” by the government’s draconian system of punishing recipients.
She warned: “This isn’t an issue of the PCS logo being on the leaflet. [It would mean] withdrawing from joint working.” The motion was defeated after an attempt to remit the issue to the executive was lost.