This briefing is to update members on the issues that have been raised with management and the concerns that PCS has about the staffing levels and pressure in the Working Age Directorate (WAD).
End of the day process
We have raised concerns with the Employee Deal project and written to operations management that there are problems with the way the end of the day is being managed.
The 18.30 tentpole is designed so that there is time for everyone who has committed to work up until 18.30 to have a chance to complete the work after our lines close to the public at 18.00 for up to 30 minutes. It is very clear in the Employee Deal Collective Agreement in Appendix 5 of the agreement that
The working day for employees who have contact with customers will include up to 15 minutes preparation time at the beginning of the day and up to 30 minutes “close down” time at the end of the day.
Because of staff shortages then the number of claimants in the queue waiting to get through before 18.00 is too much work to be dealt with before the end of the working day at 18.30. There is no requirement for our members to work past their finish time of 18.30. This is what you have committed to and is the finish time up to which time you are able to leave the office. We have asked management to urgently put processes in place to give a clear message to claimants that we will need to finish calls by 18.30 and will make arrangements to ensure that they will be called back the next working day when the call cannot be completed.
Good Customer Service
PCS continues to argue for good customer service and we believe the way the work is being managed is exacerbating the problems. The best way of reducing call volumes is to get the processing up to date. It is a much better customer service if the claimants do not need to ring us in the first place to chase payments. Pulling processors off their work in the disruptive way that this is being managed is making the situation far worse. You cannot blame claimants for hanging on the line when the call back times have been extended to 48 hours. But this clearly shows that there is not enough staff on processing to deal with all the work.
The flexible resource model is being managed very poorly across a range of sites and is disrupting the processing that is being done on these sites as members are being frequently pulled off their processing work to take calls. More and more staff are being taken off processing to deal with the volumes of calls, which only serves to increase the number of calls as more work is not being done.
GEC negotiators have also had reports of members being told to do what is needed just to hit productivity stats even where this is not necessary to process the work, such as going through dialogue 60. There is more emphasis from senior management to make the productivity at site level look better than it is, rather than being able to accurately report of what work is being done and what is outstanding.
As quite often happens when there is pressure is on our members there can be attempts to micromanage and introduce more harsh and rigid management of our members. This is counter-productive and can be challenged by your local PCS reps. An example of this is shown by the withdrawal of the imposition of an attendance record which members had to complete 4 times a day in addition to their flexi-sheets in Merthyr thanks to both the persistence of the local reps and negotiators highlighting the issue at national level.
PCS will continue to argue against any practices that make it more difficult for our members to deliver services to the public and we will continue to put forward ways that the job design for our members and services to the public can be improved
Despite senior management’s assertions that there are enough staff in the Working Age Directorate, the lack of staff is having a real impact on the ability of our members to provide a service to the public. All the measures that are being put in place are just attempts to mitigate the problems rather than really address the situation. PCS is pushing for a proper examination of how many staff are needed to properly deliver all the services to the public. The call back time has been extended to 48 hours, team meetings being cut, more pressure on processing teams to provide staff numbers for the FRM from earlier in the day and for more time. We also see large amounts of overtime being offered including all through the Easter bank holiday weekend which also indicates the staffing problems there are in this directorate. It also shows that the two experienced members of staff in Plymouth could help deal with the backlog of work and should have the threat of compulsory redundancy removed from them.
Many branches are reporting that sites are emptying out of staff as those moving to other directorates, retiring and leaving the department are not being replaced in WAD sites. PCS is campaigning hard for the FTAs to be kept on to help deal with all the work facing members in WAD.
Senior DWP managers have been doing a lot of work to recognise the levels of work related stress with the recent Wellness survey. The survey results show that more than half of staff had work related stress in the past 12 months. Senior Operations management deciding to reduce the number of staff by not keeping on the FTAs is only going to exacerbate this situation and increase the pressure on our members. GEC negotiators will continue to demand increases to staffing levels to reduce the pressure on our members. Nearly 4500 staff in WAD responded to the survey showing how important this issue is to our members in this directorate. The PCS campaign for more staff has never been so important as now and we encourage members to get involved in the union and any events being organised locally.
Keep raising issues with your local PCS reps who will escalate any issues that cannot be resolved locally to the GEC negotiators. We have a meeting with the WAD director on 11th April and will update members following this meeting.