The employer stated that “extended opening hours is an essential part of our strategy, as we strive for excellence in the services we deliver to our customers. Demand for our services is changing. More customers are in work, so we need to be more flexible about the times they can contact us. We need to be available as more of our customers interact online, at different times of day”. PCS negotiators demanded evidence from the employer which backed up the above statement. They were unable to produce any evidence to justify their decision. Incredibly, when they issued their own staff correspondence on 25 September explaining their reasoning, they stated “None of us can precisely predict what changes there will be over the next few years, but we know that we need the flexibility to respond as quickly as we can to whatever challenges we face.”
Charles Law, PCS industrial officer, stated “There is no significant customer demand for the DWP extending its operating hours. Charles went on to state “The department appears to be motivated to be seen to be doing something on operating hours, irrespective of the actual levels of customer demand.”
Members will now know which parts of the DWP are extending their operating hours from May 2020. On scrutiny, it is absolutely clear that there is no consistency of approach to their decision. Some sites plan to be operating every evening to 8pm and/or every Saturday. Other sites will only be extending hours on one or two days per week or only one Saturday in four. In fact, most sites will not be extending at all. It is almost as though there is an unseen force at work dictating to the employer that “We want a return for the investment we gave you in 2016 to fund the employee deal”.
PCS welcomes the fact that most offices will still see no extension of operating hours in May 2020. However, we still must condemn the employers’ strategy. Sam Hall, PCS group assistant secretary, stated “The employer’s plan is unnecessary and will not provide a better service to customers.” Sam continued “By making members work evenings and Saturdays means there will be fewer staff at work during the day, when customer demand is at its highest. It will lead to missed calls, which in turn will lead to more repeat calls, increasing everyone’s workload and reducing the level of service our customers deserve.”