PCS negotiators continue to challenge senior managers who mistakenly think they can deal with chronic understaffing by using extended hours. Just stretching the staffing levels more thinly across more hours exacerbates the problems. Members will be working the same number of hours a week and will only be able to do the same amount of work as before so it is obvious that extending opening hours cannot deal with staff shortages. We have seen the well supported strike action in Walsall and Wolverhampton UC sites demanding full staffing levels. These battles will continue whilst the Treasury continues to under-resource the DWP.
The Employee Deal Collective Agreement is clearly about how to provide cover to deliver services where there is genuine customer demand. There has been very little change in the genuine demand for services outside the current opening hours. When claimants are repeatedly calling and are directed to a quieter time, they will ring later if that is the only way they can get through, reflected in the slight increase in DLA calls.
PCS continues to keep a close eye on the impact of moving members’ working patterns from some of the busiest times of the day to staff the later opening. We recognise this can detrimentally impact on our members and services to the public. Opening hours should be focussed on the services that are actually needed, not a one size fits all approach that disregards the needs of different claimant groups. Demand is for work that needs to be done at specific points in the day with all the support that teams need to deliver this work. This gives flexibility for how our members deal with the rest of the work, reflected in the ability to indicate what our preferred working patterns are and work together as teams to accommodate these preferences and the rights our members have under the Flexible Working Hours Agreement.
All the safeguards in the Collective Agreement continue to apply in the areas where extended hours are being tested. Caring and personal issues, including travel difficulties should be fully taken into account. Where this is not done we have had a good success rate dealing with poor decisions on working patterns with the Independent Panel. PCS will be working to ensure that health, safety and welfare issues are properly risk assessed specifically for each site where extended hours are being tested.
Any member experiencing any problem or difficulty should talk to your local PCS reps who can escalate any issues that cannot be resolved locally.