Group executive committee (GEC) reps met with DWP managers on 5 March 2019, with another meeting scheduled for 7 March, to discuss the successful ballot for industrial action in Walsall and Wolverhampton.
Members have made their views clear – DWP must make changes
The ballot for action was held under the 2016 anti-union laws which imposed a requirement to get more than 50% of affected members to vote in the ballot. 55% of the staff in the two service centres voted in the ballot, and over 90% voted in favour of strike action. The mandate for action is clear. It is based on the five key demands put forward by the GEC and agreed unanimously by members at the sites at all-members' car park meetings.
- Recruitment of 5,000 new staff, plus permanency for FTAs.
- Limit case manager telephone calls to 30 per week
- Limit the size of the national telephony teams – no return to the Contact Centre model
- A written agreement laying out the basis for full consultation, to stop the constant changes that are being implemented without any discussion.
- A written agreement imposing clear limits to how stats are being used to manage staff, e.g. on after call work, average handling time etc.
The first round of action is set for 11 and 12 of March.
Solidarity donations from branches are welcome and should be paid to Walsall and Wolverhampton PCS, Unity Trust Bank, account number 20340818, sort code 60-83-01.
DWP met with PCS to make some offers of limited changes, the specifics of which have been discussed with the branch. The offers did not include any increase in staffing. DWP are recruiting an additional 72 staff at the site already, based on increasing caseloads, and will maintain a waiting list in order to deal with attrition, but the existing caseloads and the existing numbers of calls are the problem. A small number of additional staff, when the number of claimants will go up by over a million by the end of 2019, simply will not provide enough support to our hard-pressed members.
DWP attempt to undermine the dispute
PCS reps in the West Midlands have notified the GEC that managers are asking for volunteers from staff in Jobcentres and other sites with recent service centre experience to cover the work of Walsall and Wolverhampton on the strike days. PCS does not consider this to be reasonable and we urge PCS members to refuse.
We have been told by national UC management that jobcentres will be facing a squeeze on the number of staff over the next year. This is happening even while tasks are being moved from the service centres to the Jobcentres. Members of the union volunteering to break the strike are just hurting themselves in the long run and we urge them to show solidarity.