GEC negotiators met with Retirement Services senior managers on 28 May to discuss restrictions placed on members’ flexible working within Future Pensions at Tyne View Park.
Restrictions on flexible working hours
Members have been angry at the imposed restriction of only being able to build up 30 minutes flexi per day. It has also been frustrating that there have been significant delays in getting this issue resolved, despite the matter being taken up as a matter of urgency both by the local branch and by the GEC.
RS senior managers stated that the restrictions were imposed due to the annual peak of high call volumes and the fact that staff originally taken on for EU exit work have been working to clear the clerical work. This meant that there was less work available for members to undertake when not on the phones. Negotiators were clear we do not consider the imposition of flexi restrictions to have been a fair or reasonable response to this situation, and that much anger has been caused as a result as that there have been negative impacts on members working and personal lives. The call volumes throughout the day during this busy period do not warrant restricting flexi and on the contrary members building up flexi could have helped deal with the volume of calls.
Urgent Review Agreed
Following the discussions, RS management have agreed to urgently review the situation and we are hopeful that this matter will be resolved quickly. GEC negotiators made it clear we do not accept the restriction of our members’ access to flexible working in this way and that members in Future Pensions should be treated no differently to members in any other part of DWP. Management confirmed that assumed consent has been available throughout this period. They were disappointed to hear that there have been problems with our members having flexibility over the length of their lunch period and will issue clear messaging to address this. There appears to be clear lack of understanding about how the Flexible Working Hours Agreement works with members committing to fix one end of the day and having flexibility at the other end of the day and the balance of staff covering the tentpoles ensuring that there is cover at both ends of the day.
RS senior managers have acknowledged the situation should have been better handled and their communication, both with PCS and members, should have been better. RS senior managers agreed that following the urgent review, they will share their draft communications with PCS in advance to ensure that the messages are reasonable and fair.
PCS have also demanded that if management have any future issues relating to cover of work that they should consult with the union about how to deal with this and not just impose restrictions on our members. Many areas of the DWP have spikes of work and management issuing voluntary messages asking members to help cover these spikes has been shown to work well and shows the benefits of having the flexible working hours agreement both to deliver services and provide flexibility for our members. Imposition of restrictions impedes the balance of the flexi system and has the opposite effect creating resentment and lowering morale which has a negative impact on delivering services.
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