Universal Credit staffing update campaign - Feb 2019

01 Feb 2019

Discussions this week between group executive committee reps and UC managers have centred around staff as claimants, around after call work and around the costing model that DWP uses to determine the correct number of staff.

UC staffing campaign update

Walsall and Wolverhampton have now formally requested authority to ballot members for in their two UC service centres. This authority has now been granted and DWP has been notified. Other sites are still in discussion with management, but the indication is that no concessions have been made locally on the five key demands.

  • 5,000 new staff, permanency for our fixed term staff
  • Limit the number of phone calls per case manager
  • Limit the size of the national telephony hub; no to contact centres, yes to service centres.
  • Improve consultation – no changes to our offices without union agreement.
  • Quality-focused approach – no more management by statistic.

DWP acknowledge incorrect staffing model – more money for staffing available

Universal Credit managers have taken the first step towards acknowledging the demands of workers on the front line; they have agreed the costing model has been wrong and they have changed it. The new costing model will result in increased staffing levels. An additional £42 million is to be spent on staffing for 2019-20.

GEC negotiators are absolutely clear that this change has been the result of prolonged pressure exerted by the PCS campaign for additional staff over the last eight months, which has consistently highlighted problems in the statistics DWP are reporting and which has highlighted the direct experience of our members.

On 21 February, GEC reps will meet again with UC national managers and will get into the detail of how many extra staff UC will be taking on and how DWP estimate this will be able to cope with the expecting doubling of national UC caseloads over the next 12 months. Rough calculations indicate the increase is not enough and there is everything to play for, so the PCS staffing campaign must continue.

After Call Work

Clear messages were reiterated that there are no numerical targets, especially for UC national telephony staff. DWP recently implemented a reduction in pre-set time allocated to after call work. This meant that if staff were in the after call work aux code on WFM, that whereas it would previously have taken 15 minutes for a call to come through, the change reduced this to 8 minutes.

PCS members have indicated that this is not enough for integrated telephony case managers. As a result, another call is coming through before staff have finished the task they are working on. This leads to work being piled up throughout the day, until staff get a chance to clear it later. This behaviour then reinforces the management idea that staff do not need the after call work, as there has not been a spike in Aux Code 1 usage, i.e. extended after call work.

UC managers accept that this scenario is possible but they do not accept that the problem is the number of calls and therefore the insufficient number of staff to take them. Instead they believe staff have been artificially creating a break by simply staying in After Call Work rather than switching back to ready. PCS negotiators stressed that there is simply no evidence of this and the experience of staff simply did not reflect this.

One of the key messages that comes out of this to staff, agreed by UC management, is this:

  • If you need to use after call work, use it.
  • If you need to use extended after call work, use it.

Any attempt to crack down on this based purely on numbers must be robustly challenged everywhere that it occurs, and it would be helpful if this was reported to the GEC Assistant Secretaries even where it is successfully challenged locally.

Staff as claimants / Managed migration

Branches will already have noted Members’ Bulletin 04/19 on staff as claimants. It is worth reporting additionally that management engagement here has been better than average, with concrete promises to consult on material relating to staff as claimants and to managed migration before it is signed off. Though they have been slow to agree our requests in terms of twinning or a specialist unit, they are intending to produce case studies and deal with any identifiable gaps in the guidance, which DWP agree is imperfect. Branches that have particular views on this are encouraged to get in touch.

We already know from correspondence that members are already undergoing migration to UC, or making new claims to UC. DWP have let us know that they anticipate including some staff who are claimants in the “managed migration” exercise to begin in July. This is not definitive but as we learn more, we’ll keep branches up to date.

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