Socialist Worker

Civil service workers calling up a campaign

by Dave Owens, PCS DWP group executive committee (pc)
Issue No. 2177

Civil service workers are in the forefront of campaigning to defend public services.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has transferred work into call centres and used electronic monitoring to force more work out of fewer workers.

The PCS union’s group executive committee in the department met last week to finalise plans for a major campaign to improve the conditions of members working in call and contact centres.

It also discussed campaigning to end the erosion of services to the public.

The decision to launch the campaign came before the announcement last month that an extra 5,000 workers are to be transferred into the Jobcentre Plus Call Centre Directorate.

This campaign should unite these workers with the 7,000 workers already based in call centres who have been calling on the union to act.

The PCS will be demanding that the 14 sites immediately affected all retain a mix of benefit processing and tele­phone work.

Workers in these areas already endure appalling conditions. This has resulted in higher levels of sickness than elsewhere in the DWP and a staff turnover rate currently running at 18 percent a year.

Indeed, working times are rigidly set to the minute and determined centrally for all 7,000 workers. The group executive had already taken the view that this was unacceptable.

Similar problems are being experienced in the pension service and elsewhere in DWP.

Consultation meetings are therefore planned in all call centres across DWP and CMEC initially to win membership support for the demands of the campaign.

This will almost inevitably require industrial action unless management’s attitude changes dramatically.

PCS will also demand the end to the creeping privat­isation of telephone work. Already the Vertex private company handles 80 percent of jobseeker calls.

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Article information

Tue 10 Nov 2009, 18:52 GMT
Issue No. 2177
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