Join the discussions – feel free to comment below each post.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A Call to ARMs Members

The ARMs National Committee has been sent a request from the General Secretary's office to find an ARMs member who would be willing to be interviewed by French media on being made redundant in the Civil Service.

Is this you?

If you have recently been made redundant and would be interested in finding out more, please contact Steve Battlemuch, the press officer, on with your details. The interview can be completely anonymous.

If you can help it would be appreciated.

Friday, 9 February 2018


Brian Nelson shares his thoughts. When challenged about the collapse of Carillion, Theresa May said her government wants “good quality public services, delivered at best value to the taxpayer”. This has always been the Tory (and was erstwhile, sadly, Labour’s) mantra to justify handing over £billions of public sector contracts to behemoth corporations such as Carillion, Virgin, Capita, G4S, or ATOS. Now their blind faith in the market to deliver essential public services has firmly hit the rocks with Carillion going bust and putting at risk hundreds of public (and private) sector jobs and services, ranging from school meals and cleaning to building hospitals and railways.

But long before Carillion issued its profits warnings last summer, alarm bells should have been ringing in government about the wisdom of the continuing wholesale privatisation of public services upon which we, and the nation, depend. Contract after contract has gone pear-shaped but the Tory dogma of ‘public sector bad - private sector good’ has driven them to ignore the risks and put more and more public sector work out to private tender.

For example, consider these examples against May’s yardstick of “good quality public services, delivered at best value to the taxpayer”:

- G4S: failed to deliver the security they had been contracted to provide for the London Olympics, so the army had to step in - at taxpayers’ expense. [1]

- ATOS: had to step down a year early from its DWP Work Capability Assessment contract after wrongly judging thousands of people to be fit for work. [2]

- Virgin Care: holds over 400 NHS contracts worth £billions, yet its parent company is registered in the British Virgin Islands tax haven, so not only does it take a handsome profit from public sector work but it pays no tax on it in the UK. [3]

- Serco: falsely charged the Government for tagging thousands of criminals who were actually dead, imprisoned or non-existent. [4]

- A4e: staff prosecuted for making up scores of files, forging signatures and falsely claiming they had helped people find jobs through its DWP welfare-to-work contract. A4e made enough profits from public service work to pay its founder, Emma Harrison, £8.6 million in dividends in 2011. [5]

- Circle Health: after only three years Circle Health walked away from its ten-year contract to run Hinchingbrooke hospital and left the NHS to sort out its mess. [6]

- East Coast mainline: Despite massive government subsidies, two private rail operators, GNER and National Express, successively went bust trying to run the East Coast mainline, but when the publicly-owned Directly Operated Railways was created to keep the line running it was able to deliver millions of pounds in profits each year to the Treasury. Despite this public sector success story, the Tories re-privatised it - but now (three years early) Virgin/Stagecoach is walking away from this essential public transport service because it can’t make a profit. [7]

What these failures (and many others too numerous to mention) tell me is that private companies are only interested in their profit margins and have no concern for the public services they run, nor for the people who use them, and in the worst cases they even dodge paying taxes which could be spent on cash-strapped services.

I first saw the writing on the wall back in the 1990s when outsourcing was in its infancy and a newly-appointed embryo facilities management company charged our district management a ludicrous £250 to move a small wall cabinet from one room to another. Mighty oaks trees from such tiny acorns grow and, as we are seeing with Carillion, the bigger they become the more damage they cause when they fall.

We are already seeing our vital public services decimated by austerity cuts, and these monster privatised facilities management companies threaten to put the final nail in their coffin - or has that been the Tory idea all along? [650]

Brian Nelson is a singer/songwriter based in Hull. He has written a number of songs about Hull’s deep-sea trawling heritage, and also performs many songs relating to the struggle for social justice. Brian is a lifelong trade unionist, socialist and ARMs Yorkshire and Humber committee member using his musical talents to campaign against austerity.


Monday, 4 December 2017

A Brief Analysis of the Older Tory Voter


Electoral data from 1945 -1970 suggested that older voters were more likely than younger voters to vote Conservative and less likely than younger voters to vote Labour.

This was often explained by the notion that as individuals grow older they become set in their ways.

People born in say 1900 would have grown up before a powerful Labour Party existed and might as a result have been socialised to vote Conservative or Liberal. People born in say 1930 with the reforming Labour Governments of 1945-51 may have been encouraged to vote Labour.

In 2010 some 76% of people over 65 turned out to vote.

The balance begins to shift

It is still a large percentage in the over 65s that vote Tory although all other groups have shifted significantly towards Labour. The retention of the Triple Lock was clearly a factor. Although the Dementia Tax caused a swing away from the Tories.

A poll, which interviewed 14,000 people during the last election found those aged 35 to 44 swung to Labour - 50% voted for them while just 30% voted for the Tories. This is compared to 36% of them voting Labour and 26% backing the Tories just two years ago.

Sky News’ political editor Faisal Islam said this “should terrify” the Conservatives, who have always sought to position themselves as the most credible on the economy to homeowners and parents.


We have to accept the past disparity in voting patterns of the elderly who continue to vote Tory. But nothing in history is static. Austerity will change the debate and turn everything on its head. Our work in the pensioner’s movement is critical. We need to explain the nature of those ‘austerity’ attacks and how we can vote to change things.

Steve Ion
ARMs National Committee Member

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Help phone banks for the PCS pay campaign

PCS are currently running a consultative ballot in the pay campaign and would like help from ARMs members to maximize the turnout.
Do you have any time to spare from Monday 30th October to Friday 3rd November 2017 to assist in staffing phone banks at local PCS Regional Offices? You would be using a script to phone members who have not yet voted to encourage them to take part in the ballot.
If so, please contact your Regional Office to find out more details and let them know when you can help. You can find their number here.
No automatic alt text available.

Monday, 23 October 2017

ARMs pledges support to WASPI

Please join the fight by writing to your MP. You can use the draft letter below. It has also been pointed out that women born in the 1960s have been affected by the rise in the pension age with little notice to add to their retirement income. If this is relevant to you please adapt the letter to ask your MP to look at the plight of women born in the early 1960s. You can also sign the petition here.

If you want to find out more about the campaign you can access details here.

The WASPI women have also set up a Facebook page which can be accessed here.

If you don’t know who your MP is you can find out here.

Dear (Mr/Mrs/Ms xxxxx)

I am writing to ask you to support the WASPI women. They are unhappy about the amount of notice given in relation to the increase in State Pension age.  Many received less than two years notice of a 6 year wait for their state pension. In monetary terms these women have lost up to £40,000 of their expected retirement income. They were given no time to prepare for such a massive change to their expected retirement plans, and many are now living in hardship as a consequence of this. Please understand that WASPI women are not complaining about the change of the State Pension age, rather the lack of notice of the change.

I’m also concerned that when questions are asked in Parliament about this issue the answer always refers to a small adjustment made in the time scale for raising the State Pension Age for both men and women in 2011, while ignoring the fact that the 1995 Act has meant that many women born in the 50’s are waiting up to an extra six years for their State Pension, with little or no notice.

I would like to hear from you about how you can take action to right this injustice for 1950s women.  There is an All Party Parliamentary Group with Carolyn Harris MP as Chair and I would like you to contribute to their efforts.  I would appreciate it if you would take up this matter with the Pensions Minister and ensure that he understands that the wait has not been 18 months, rather it has been years. You could also ask questions in the house as to why these women have been treated so unfairly, and what the Government intend doing about it.

One thing is for sure, the WASPI campaign gains strength every day representing the views of the 3.5 million women across the UK who have been adversely affected by this issue.

I can confirm I am a constituent of (insert name of constituency) and set out my address below.
I look forward to hearing from you. I also request you note the comments of the Pension Minister Guy Operman on 5/7 that WASPI women should take out apprenticeships and consider signing Early Day Motion 63.

Yours sincerely,


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Lib Dem Lord: drop triple lock as pensioners 'have it easy'

Peers suffering from austerity - on £300 per day
Commonly known as ‘Dick’, Baron Richard Newby, Leader of the Lib Dems in the House of Lords, has decided to share his wisdom about the generational divide he seems keen to propagate. £300-a-day Dick – his expenses for sitting in the ‘Upper Chamber’ – believes 'pensioners have it easy' when compared with young people’.

The report here in the New Model Adviser business magazine sets out his thinking on the issue. However you may want to bear in mind some of the following.

It may be Dick (64), along with former Lib Dem Coalition Pensions Minister Steve Webb, think that the new state pension system, has been through some kind of reverse time warp. They allege pensioners now receive a state pension of around £8,000 a year. In reality the new system is not fully operational until 2051. In the interim it will leave many millions of pensioners struggling on much less than that figure, including everyone who was in receipt of a retirement pension before 6th April 2016.

Let’s not forget that this whole package of ‘Pensions reform’ including the penalising of contracted out public sector workers and the adverse changes to state pension retirement age were in support of Tory/Lib Dem austerity policies designed to save £500 billion over a 35 year period.

Of course many current pensioners receive much less every month than Dick would get for 2 days slumbering in the House of Lords. And as for bridging the generational divide the Tory/Lib Dem coalition did not leave out other sections of society.

The young whose Tuition Fees were trebled and employment rights trampled on in the burgeoning and unregulated Gig economy. The working families whose employment rights were attacked, occupational pensions undermined and tax credits cut. The disabled whose benefits were cut and job opportunities destroyed.

Dick, Steve and their Tory allies having imposed 7 years of austerity upon everyone but themselves and the wealthiest people in society who have prospered during austerity now believe that they have something to say that you should listen to.

The truth is they have had their say; they have cast a blight across the vast majority of our population and they deserve nothing but contempt for seeking to lecture us about what we should do in the future.

Many people have been saying they want an alternative to the ‘different shades of grey’ offered by politicians up to 2015. Now the Labour Party is offering that alternative the challenge is to seize it and never forget the sacrifice and despair Dick and his friends are offering.

Eddie Spence
ARMS National Vice Chair

Thursday, 14 September 2017

How do we bridge the Generation Gap?

If you believe some media commentators and politicians the 'Generational Divide' is the most corrosive issue in our society. They say wealthy Baby Boomer pensioners have swallowed up all the wealth whist younger generations struggle with student debts, lowly paid jobs and inadequate housing.

The media often characterises pensioners as playing golf on lush courses or enjoying luxury cruises without a care in the world. I find it strange I don’t know one such person. However I do know older people who struggle with their health either through age, disability, loneliness, isolation and of course poverty. I also know young people who worry about their education and whether they or their family can afford it. I know many more who struggle to find a decent job with reasonable working conditions and pay and who are exploited by employers without an effective regulatory system to safeguard their rights and many without a union to fight for them.

With all this in mind it is heartening to see a more constructive analysis of the issues that can and should be tackled. It is also of interest how uniting across our generations might start to challenge the real inequality in our society between the vested interests a rich, powerful global elite, its hangers on and the rest of us. It is worth taking a moment to read the article here, and why not share your views in the comments box below this post?

Eddie Spence
ARMS National Vice Chair

Friday, 1 September 2017

DWP blunder - office repossessed

Workers arriving at Bridge House Jobcentre in Blyth near Newcastle on 30 August were confronted with a bailiff's notice on the front door. The landlord of the site, contracted to Telereal Trillum as part of the DWP jobcentre network, has posted the notice to advise that bailiffs can enter and "repossess" the building.

The department had originally planned to close Bridge House, but reconsidered its decision on 10 August. This incident with the bailiffs has simply created more confusion for the 27 workers at the site. The embarrassment comes as the DWP plan to push ahead with their plans to close dozens of jobcentres across UK, a decision which will jeopardise local economies and service delivery.

A PCS spokesperson said: "This is the latest gaffe for the DWP and again shows that they are out of touch with what's happening on the ground. They don't know the needs of the workers, service users, or of the local community. Workers are growing increasing concerned and confused about the future of their role. This is no way to treat anyone. How can the department be trusted to push ahead with their radical programme of office closures when they can't even pay the bills on time?"

PCS has called yet again on Department for Work and Pensions management to halt its planned Jobcentre closure plan, after this blunder. It would be comical except that real jobs and real clients are affected.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A woman in your 60s affected by changes in retirement age?

Women aged between 60 and 62 are an average of £32 a week worse off due to changes in the state pension age. The Guardian Newspaper would like to find out how this affects you.

Women in their early 60s have lost an average of £32 a week from changes in the retirement age, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported today.

The increase in the age that women can receive their state pension has lowered the income of more than a million women, according to the IFS study, while the government has saved £5.1bn a year.

Many women are working for longer as a result of the changes and some are now facing hardship after many years of work and paying National Insurance Contributions with the expectation of an earlier State Pension, an expectation which will bring the state pension age to an equal level - 65 - for men and women by November 2018, before rising to 66 by October 2020.

PCS ARMs is supporting the 'WASPI Campaign' to address this injustice but we need to keep it in the public eye and expose what the Government has done and their refusal to properly address this injustice. You can help by telling your story or letting a family member, friend or neighbour know about this continuing campaign.

Are you a woman aged between 60 and 62 affected by the changes? Are you struggling financially? Have you decided to work for longer? How has this affected your life?
Share your experiences:

The Guardian Newspaper would like to hear from women in their early 60s affected by the change in state pension age. If you would like to share your experience, please fill in the form at this link, anonymously if you prefer. The Guardian will feature some of your responses in their reporting.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Third legal defeat for Government in a fortnight

From a PCS press release 4 August 2017:

(Note: this may affect ARMS members who left work after the changes were imposed)

Unlawful cuts to civil service redundancy pay have been quashed by the High Court in the third major legal defeat for the government in just over a week, the Public and Commercial Services union says. Judges also refused the government’s request to appeal and ordered it to pay the union’s costs, including an immediate £40,000 as an "interim payment". It opens the door for civil servants made redundant under the new terms imposed in November to claim compensation after being left thousands of pounds worse off.

The order comes just over a week after Unison won major victories in the courts over employment tribunal fees and the need for employers to properly consult when making major changes in the workplace.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This is a great win for us and all civil servants, and another humiliating defeat for the government that treated its workforce with contempt by excluding us from talks. In trying to fix the terms of the negotiations the government only succeeded in showing itself to be weak, vulnerable and afraid of serious discussion. The judgement proves how important it is to belong to a trade union that is prepared to fight back."


The court ruled last month the Tories’ latest cuts to the terms of the civil service compensation scheme - which governs voluntary and compulsory redundancy pay - were unlawful because the Cabinet Office excluded the union from negotiations.

Lord Justice Sales and Mrs Justice Whipple ruled former Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer - who lost his seat at the general election - failed in his legal "duty to consult with a view to reaching agreement" by excluding PCS from more than a dozen meetings attended by most of the smaller unions.

In a letter to the unions in June, a senior Cabinet Office official wrote:

"I want to be clear that attendance at any further discussions will be taken as a clear commitment that those unions engaging in the talks have accepted that the proposal above will form the basis of a reformed, negotiated, set of arrangements that their relevant executives can recommend acceptance to their members in any ballot."

The judgement stated: "There was no basis on which the Minister was entitled to exclude the PCSU from the consultation. It cannot be said that it is highly likely that the outcome would not have been affected if the PCSU had been allowed to participate in the second round of discussions, as it should have been."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Justice for sale - again

Hot on the heels of their defeat in the Supreme Court over fees for Employment Tribunals, the Government has surreptitiously published proposals for another way to rake in profits from our justice system by sneaking out plans during MPs' excessive summer holidays for a controversial privatisation.

The Ministry of Justice has announced today (1 August) it wants to outsource the collection of courts fines currently done by almost 150 civil servants. Two years ago an attempt to privatise all enforcement work was abandoned and a Freedom of Information request by our union revealed the five-year project cost taxpayers £8 million.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service civilian enforcement officers, who are subject to the civil service code governing standards of behaviour, have the authority to search premises and place defaulters in custody, and can access sensitive data held on government systems, including the Police National Computer. The code would not apply to staff working for private companies motivated by profit, and we share the concerns raised by Citizens Advice and other debt advice agencies earlier this year about the need for substantial reform to protect vulnerable people from rogue bailiffs.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The last time ministers tried to do something similar it ended up costing taxpayers £8 million before being abandoned, now they’re trying to avoid scrutiny by sneaking it out during the summer holiday. This work is highly sensitive and should remain in-house instead of being handed to private bailiffs whose motive is profit."

Most info from PCS website

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Overpaid public sector workers?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s statements about overpaid public sector workers may well be fading into the middle distance but they are true reflection of what the Tories really think. Not just do they deploy their age old tactic of divide and rule seeking to set private sector workers against public sector workers and young against old, they warn that doing anything other than following their dogma driven policies will lead to disaster.

It is useful to remember what Hammond said in a response to a question from Andrew Marr, which was: "When you take into account the very generous contributions that public sector employers have to pay in to their very generous pensions it is a simple fact: relative to private sector workers, they are paid a 10% premium."

The average pension of public sector workers is no more than £6,500 per annum. Many workers in the public sector are on poverty pay. The vast majority currently working along with those who have already retired will never receive the 'New State Pension' or anything close to it as the legislation debars those people who contracted out of SERPS.

Latterly millions of workers in their 30s and 40s in both public and private sectors have been told they will have to wait a year longer and lose up to £10,000 of whatever State Pension they will receive. Again we are told that to do anything else would lead to disaster. Little wonder in responding to the announcement that Labours Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams accused the Government of forcing "millions of people to work longer to pay for their failing austerity plans".

It is not just that Hammond is a hypocrite with a £9 million fortune and a Chancellor's pensionable salary of £134,000 a year. It is the fact that he is just plain wrong.

Many members of the public have written to try and correct Hammond’s misguided assertions and you can see some of the comments at this link.

It will be interesting to know what your thoughts are on this issue? You can join this debate and share any comments you have on this posting by clicking on the link to "comments" below.

Eddie Spence