DWP Safety Dispute – PCS achieves concessions from DWP

02 Oct 2020

PCS has been in constructive talks with senior managers in the department that have resulted in an offer from DWP aimed at settling our safety dispute

Despite this the department’s move to extend services over recent months has increased the anxiety and worry for thousands of members, and PCS has robustly opposed DWP’s decision making. It was against this backdrop that PCS ran a consultative ballot in August for members in 21 UC service centres and across all job centres over serious safety concerns. The decisions by DWP to extend operating hours to 8pm and to Saturdays, and to increase foot fall in job centres created a major risk to our members safety and in the ballot nearly 80% of members voted in favour of industrial action.

Armed with that strong endorsement from members, the GEC has continued to press the department on our demands and despite DWP’s decision to go ahead with plans to extend hours and increase footfall in jobcentres we have been able to get the employer back to the negotiating table.

Over the past week or so PCS has been in constructive talks with senior managers in the department that have resulted in an offer from DWP aimed at settling our safety dispute.

DWP Offer

Following extensive talks the department have written to PCS with a formal offer containing the following concessions:

  • No extension of operating hours to 8pm where this was planned from 30 November. This has been paused until March 2021
  • To continue to extend operating hours and opening hours on Saturdays from 30 November, but to work with PCS on how staff can be enabled to work from home on Saturdays and the numbers of staff required to physically attend the workplace
  • A continuation until 31 December 2020 of the one hour per week flexi credit for those travelling into offices
  • A commitment by 31 March 2021 to provide all staff with the IT kit to enable staff to be able to work from home at least part of the time
  • A commitment to improved consultation with PCS particularly to ensure the health and safety of our members is protected, especially in areas of local lockdown and restriction
  • To “empower” EO work coaches to decide what channel of contact they believe is the most appropriate, be it telephone, digital or, where necessary, face to face, when arranging interviews with customers.

Management were clear that there would be no targets for the number of face to face interviews and that the recent drive to fill diaries with face to face interviews would end immediately.

Announcements will be made to staff today

Group Officers meet

The DWP group officers met yesterday and acknowledged that these were significant concessions from the employer, taking into account the very real safety concerns that PCS have been voicing in the wake of the increased number of infections. The officers also noted that this movement by the department has been gained without any member having to resort to taking industrial action.

The officers were clear, however, that any increase in footfall in job centres and the potential for significant amounts of Saturday working from an office were still of serious concern and a major risk to our members safety. The recent unacceptable drive to increase face to face interviews in job centres across many districts has created real friction between work coaches and some local leaders, and our members who are JCM’s have come under increasing pressure to ramp up activity that we believe to be both unsafe and unnecessary.  

Group officers were clear that the implementation of real autonomy for work coaches to decide whether it is safe or necessary to carry out face to face interviews, without pressure or fear of negative consequence, and the ability for DWP to facilitate working from home on a Saturday are crucial to the success of these proposals; ultimately the offer will be judged on whether or not they minimise footfall in front facing offices and restrict the amount of Saturday working within an office.

Consultation

The GEC will meet on Monday to discuss the offer and a further update will be issued next week, but the officers agreed it was important to open consultation with members and branches immediately and would encourage you to send your urgent comments and views to leeds@pcs.org.uk. They will be used to inform the GEC’s decision as to our next steps in this dispute.

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