A solid strike by 3,000 call centre workers on Thursday and Friday of last week highlighted their horrendous working conditions.
The members of the PCS union work for the Jobcentre Plus contact centres in Glasgow, Newport (Gwent), Norwich, Sheffield, Bristol, Makerfield and Manchester.
There were big pickets outside the offices, with strikers telling Socialist Worker about their experiences in these “bright Satanic mills” which led them to take action.
Management transferred the staff out from benefit delivery centres to contact centres, which has led to worse working conditions for workers, and worse services for the public.
Tom Bishell of the PCS in Sheffield said, “We believe that these changes in working conditions are related to the government’s cuts agenda.
“Management are asking workers to do more work and in less time.
“The contact centre ethos is targeted to control the length of calls rather than to offer a good service.
“This in turn creates more and more pressure for the staff. For many years Jobcentre Plus has attempted to force those wishing for help with job searching or claiming benefits to contact the DWP through telephones and increasingly, through the internet.
“Moving benefit processing out of local areas has already had, and will continue to have, a negative impact on people who rely on Jobcentre Plus services.”
One picket said, “We are not allowed to explain to callers why they have no benefits. We can only promise that someone else will call them back.
“A social worker called about benefits for one of her clients. But I had to tell her we cannot give advice or explanations even though we know what the problems are. We can only refer the question on. It is no longer a service.”
Dave Owens, of the PCS DWP group executive, told Socialist Worker, “The strike was very successful.
“The key thing for the union now is to escalate the action by balloting workers at the 30 existing call centres to join the fight, which has been agreed.”
For more on the strikes go to Solid strike at Jobcentre Plus