14 December 2021

Cosham members at risk of redundancy. Unnecessary risk to members’ livelihoods

PCS members in Roebuck House, Cosham were told on 9 November that they are at risk of redundancy. Herma Hughes writes about how over 100 people are affected by the announcement made.

The site, along with a number of others, was classed as “transitional” by DWP back in 2017, but the pandemic prompted DWP to delay making any final decisions about the future of those sites. The landlord of the Cosham site has since served notice on DWP to vacate the premises next year, resulting in DWP announcing the closure in August.

Disgracefully members had only been given their unassigned status support packs seven working days before the announcement, yet DWP decided to immediately declare all staff on site at risk of redundancy. Our members have had very little time to seek suitable alternative vacancies, and the employer has given themselves next to no time to ensure all necessary support is in place for staff, let alone explore all available options to avoid a redundancy situation. DWP have argued that the risk of redundancy status will open up more opportunities for members and help them to find other roles, but alternative employment opportunities within DWP and other government departments within the area will be limited.

PCS has made clear our opposition to this decision and robustly argued that members in Cosham deserve better.

Most of the members affected work in RSD, which is responsible for processing state pension and pension credit, an area of work that is currently struggling to cope with workloads. At the same time as announcing the closure of Cosham, DWP were busy announcing the permanent move of over 800 staff into RSD from other parts of the Department in order to deal with backlogs of work. When new staff are being brought in to bailout RSD, the decision by DWP to offer exit packages to fully trained staff is astonishing. Paying off staff, many of whom have years of experience working in Retirement Services, to exit DWP via redundancy makes no sense whatsoever, either operationally or economically.

As a member of the group black members’ committee who has experienced being "displaced" in my working life, I know how uncertain members in Portsmouth will be feeling, especially those who have a protected characteristic, whose future opportunities are statistically and in reality even more limited.

PCS has pointed out that the department has an obligation to explore all options to avoid redundancy, including homeworking, under the Cabinet Office Protocols and Workforce Management Procedures, and that these measures should be part of the offer to our members before considering redundancy. DWP seem to think homeworking can only be considered in ‘exceptional circumstances’. How much more exceptional than facing unemployment do the circumstances have to be?

The DWP GEC has committed to opposing the decision to place members in Cosham at risk of redundancy, and believes that DWP have failed to fulfil their responsibility to do all that they can to avoid redundancy. 

It is incumbent on all of us to support our colleagues in Cosham in any way we can. They aren't the first and won't be the last unless we collectively make a stand and recognise their fight is our fight.