Almost 3,000 call centre workers were to strike on Thursday and Friday of this week over attacks on their working conditions.
The members of the PCS civil service workers’ union work in seven Jobcentre Plus contact centres.
These are former benefit processing sites which management have decided to convert into call centres in Glasgow, Newport (Gwent), Norwich, Sheffield, Bristol, Makerfield and Manchester.
The action had been planned for last December, but was suspended when management offered talks. Although concessions have been offered they were considered insufficient to delay any longer.
Workers are demanding access to proper flexible working and an end to a target driven culture among other things. The action is part of a wider campaign to improve working conditions in Jobcentre Plus call centres.
Some of the better organised call centre members have been demanding action for years and are disappointed not to have been included in the original ballot.
Members’ meetings have now been held in the 30 existing call centres.
The union intends to hold a further ballot to escalate the dispute to include the other 7,000 members affected.
The PCS DWP group executive will meet later this week to take a decision on escalation, but is clear that this must take place urgently if the dispute is to be won.
The dispute has wider implications and cannot be separated from the wider fight against the government’s attacks on public services.
Expansion of call centres is to cut down on costs, force more work out of fewer workers and make it easier to privatise—by separating sections off.
If the dispute is not won it could well result in a race to the bottom as government departments scramble for work.
National ballot reject compensation scheme changes
Members of the PCS civil service workers’ union delivered an overwhelming rejection of the government attacks last week.
In a national ballot, 90 percent voted to reject the Tories’ attempts to make major changes to the civil service compensation scheme.