Canterbury Universal Credit Service Centre votes for action

08 Mar 2019

Members at meetings at Canterbury have voted overwhelmingly for strike action.

National union rep barred from entering building

The assistant secretary of the group executive committee (GEC) and national executive committee (NEC) member Dave Semple went to Canterbury service centre today, to discuss with members how national negotiations had been going. Management had instructed security not to permit Dave entry to the service centre, where he himself worked for several years, on advice from DWP Employee Relations.

This shows contempt for the concerns of staff, who should have been able to speak to the elected rep who negotiates on their behalf. Local managers said that it was because industrial action could not be spoken of on the premises, but were told in no uncertain terms that this would only be discussed off DWP premises. They did not budge.

Well attended meetings give clear mandate for action

More than 80 staff attended car park meetings and voted for action, with a handful voting against (several of whom said they would definitely vote in the ballot for action short of a strike) and a handful voting to abstain. This is a clear indication that members are deeply unhappy at the way they are being treated, and at the sheer number of calls from very unhappy claimants.

Members endorsed the five key GEC demands:

  • 5000 extra staff to deal with the existing caseloads in service centres
  • Written agreement with DWP and the union on consultation
  • Limiting case manager calls to thirty per week.
  • A written agreement preventing management by statistic
  • Limits to the size of the national telephony teams – no return to contact centre.

On that basis, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of two days of strike action initially, with the option for two more, followed by a further members' meeting to discuss next steps.

DWP is not listening

Evidence suggests DWP is busy trying to encourage people to undermine the strike action planned for 11 and 12 March at Walsall and Wolverhampton. Locally at Wolverhampton, they have been telling case managers that if they break the strike, they will not have to take telephone calls on the strike days.

Instead of trying to undermine a democratically agreed strike vote, managers should seriously consider the reasonable demands put by PCS.

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