Around 3,000 members of the PCS civil service workers’ union in seven call centres are to strike for two days next week after the collapse of intensive talks with Jobcentre Plus management. This is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The workers, based in Bristol, Manchester Chorlton, Makerfield, Newport, Norwich, Sheffield and Glasgow Springburn, are set to strike on Thursday and Friday of next week.
Some 69 percent of members had voted for strikes over their transfer into the Jobcentre Plus call centre network, which means worse working conditions—and a worse service to the public.
They had been set to take action in December until talks were offered.
However, it has become clear that management remain intent on compulsorily transferring all members on the seven sites into the Contact Centre directorate (CCD). This is part of management’s plan to make CCD the contact centre organisation of the future and to take on work from other parts of the civil service.
Currently CCD has the highest rates of sickness and turnover of staff. The concessions made in the talks around flexible working hours and lunch breaks were inadequate and, even then, will be subject to review if the bosses got their way.
The union had urged management to ease the way they use oppressive targets such as call handling times. But the employer had refused to budge on this issue.
When PCS decided not to call the strike in December, management agreed to implement some interim arrangements as a sign of good faith. Their subsequent failure to do so shows their contempt for their staff. At Manchester Chorlton they proceeded to extend opening hours until 6pm, despite having previously agreed with the PCS not to do this while the talks took place.
The strike will be followed by action short of a strike from 24 January.
Members in the existing 30 call centres have overwhelmingly supported the call to escalate the dispute throughout the network. Escalation is the key to winning this dispute.
The PCS group executive, which runs the union’s work in the DWP, is to meet next week to discuss the next steps in the dispute