The PCS civil service workers’ union is to escalate the action in Jobcentre Plus call centres by balloting a further 8,000 members to join the dispute. PCS members are angry about working conditions.
In late January, around 3,000 workers successfully struck in seven sites recently converted into call centres.
The ballot of the 8,000 members in the Jobcentre Plus Contact Centre Directorate began on Monday of this week and is set to end on 24 March.
The advantage of call centre based operations to employers is that they are cheap and it is easy to move the work around.
Although this process began before the current government took power it cannot be separated from the fight against the Tory cuts.
The union is demanding that workers in the Directorate are treated the same as those working elsewhere in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
In particular we want staff to have access to flexible working, an end to the constant pressure to drive down call times to the detriment of the service, and an end to the bullying management culture.
The dispute has implications beyond those immediately affected.
The Directorate already carries out work for other government departments, such as Revenue & Customs and the UK Border Agency. And, it is seeking to take more work from other civil service areas.
There is a danger of a race to the bottom as government departments seek to cut costs and compete for work against each other and the private sector.
The PCS received hundreds of messages of support from workers in call centres in the private sector following the strike in January.
Many said that it was about time somebody did something about conditions.
A victory for civil service workers can inspire workers throughout the industry.
Around 2,000 driving examiners and administration workers in the Driving Standards Agency are balloting for strikes over job losses and closures.
Bosses want to close the Cardiff office and then shut the Newcastle one too. The ballot of PCS civil service union members closes on Friday of next week.