Members and reps have for many months been raising complaints and concerns about the extremely poor service the department has received from its facilities management contractor Interserve.
Concerns have focused on the excessive time it has taken to get work orders actioned and the large number of building repairs and essential pieces of equipment, such as lifts, that have been out of order across the department’s estate.
PCS has been raising these concerns with DWP management regularly ever since the contract was awarded to Interserve and has continually argued that this work should be delivered in-house, as it was before facilities management was privatised in the 1990s.
Interserve have been plagued with serious financial problems since before the contract was even awarded to them and PCS told DWP at that time that it was a mistake to enter into a contract with a company like Interserve.
Finally DWP too have lost patience with Interserve and decided to end the contract with them. The permanent secretary has even written to DWP staff to say he is sorry for the current state of DWP buildings.
Regrettably the department has refused to consider the option of bringing the work back in-house and have immediately began to seek a new private contractor to deliver this work, thereby risking the same problem happening again.
Unfortunately the ending of the contract is unlikely to deliver quick results in terms of work orders being actioned faster and more efficiently. It will take time for DWP to disentangle itself from the contract. The immediate priority will be meeting statutory requirements through another provider while Interserve continue to deliver non-statutory maintenance works until a new contract is awarded.
A further issue is that some parts of the department’s estate require major modernisation. Many of the department’s lifts, for example, have been described by management as antique. Major financial investment is therefore required, whoever wins a new contract, and that will require money being made available by the treasury. At present there is little sign of this happening.
Impact on PCS members
Many of Interserve staff working on the DWP contract are PCS members. They should be transferred to the new contractor under TUPE but it is nevertheless an uncertain time for our Interserve members. PCS will be working to ensure the jobs, terms and conditions of all our Interserve members are protected.
The failure of this contract with Interserve is yet another example of failed privatisation of DWP work. PCS remains firmly of the view that this work should be delivered in-house by civil servants, with civil service terms and conditions, and will continue to pursue this option with the department.
In the meantime members should continue to raise problems through your local branches, who should escalate them to group office.