Leaders of the PCS union in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who represent 90,000 union members, last week rejected a below-inflation pay offer. They also rejected another below-inflation offer from bosses in the old Child Support Agency—which is now known as CMEC.
Members’ meetings will now be held in offices throughout the country to discuss what to do next.
Both offers are broadly similar and contain flat rate pay increases for the 57 percent of staff who fall below the government’s pay freeze threshold of £21,000. However, the proposed increases are well below inflation, there is no separate money for pay progression and even some of the lowest paid staff in the capital will receive nothing as the London Pay Allowance takes many over the £21,000 limit.
The other problem is that while there is £38 million available for pay a further £55 million has been set aside for performance bonuses. Management in both DWP and CMEC seem determined that the bulk of this will go to senior managers.
DWP is among the first government departments to be affected by the pay freeze as many are in multi-year deals that will be honoured. They will then have their pay frozen when these expire.
The meeting also agreed to ballot nearly 3,000 members in seven benefit processing sites, that are due to be converted into call centres, for discontinuous strike action .The sites are in Springburn, Sheffield, Chorlton, Norwich, Newport, Bristol and Makerfield.
Action in the sites was suspended in January when management offered talks on the transfers and on working conditions across the Jobcentre Plus Call Centre Directorate. Members have been pressing for action for some time in these areas.
Unfortunately, a programme of meetings to prepare the other 7,000 members at the 32 existing call centres for action, which should have been held before last week’s meeting, has not been completed. Only around seven of the 32 sites have been visited.
It is important that this work is completed by the time the group executive is next due to meet in early November. Any action in the seven transfer sites will be seriously undermined if strikes cannot be quickly escalated to the whole of the Jobcentre Plus call centre directorate. It would also make it easy for management to play members in the transfer sites off against existing call centre workers.