Management at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) want to get rid of customer phones in job centres and eventually replace them with computers. They also plan to downgrade and cut the floor walker role.
Staff expect chaos.
The changes will diminish the service and could lead to increased frustration and violent incidents in job centres. Customer phones are a lifeline for many people. Once they are gone people will be forced to pay to phone the benefits centre.
Bosses claim this will be resolved by introducing public access computers. But not everyone is comfortable using computers, and very few of them will be available for benefit queries.
Floor walkers play a crucial role in assisting claimants and resolving problems. But the downgraded role will be more about helping people use computers than helping them with benefit queries.Where the new system was tested, that job is now being done by security guards.
Bosses claim the new system will work fine. But the risk assessment was carried out with no union involvement.
The PCS union’s DWP executive meets this week against the backdrop of management ignoring workers’ views in their rush to roll out changes and cuts.
The PCS DWP Group Conference next month needs to address this.
Many members feel the union has been too slow to respond to this attack. If we wait until conference some offices will already have made the change.
The mood in job centres is increasingly bitter as we face attack after attack. If we seize on this issue and organise resistance immediately we could stop this attack and win an important victory.