PCS has condemned the decision to fully reopen jobcentres today warning that it will increase the likelihood of avoidable Covid-19 infections.
Pre-lockdown opening hours for jobcentres will resume allowing a huge increase in face-to-face appointments for people to claim Universal Credit and other benefits.
However, the union has said that the move unnecessarily risks further outbreaks of Covid 19 and pointed out that DWP staff were delivering services to claimants successfully, working from home.
PCS are clear that the vast bulk of the interviews now expected to be done face to face can still be carried out remotely, and fear the real driver for targeting 18-24 year old UC claimants and customers in receipt of JSA back in to jobcentres, is less about providing much needed support to customers and more about reinstating the previous labour market and conditionality regime which saw thousands sanctioned, having their benefits removed.
The government’s instruction for civil servants to work from home if they can, is also still in place.
PCS said DWP management had ignored their concerns over potential Covid outbreaks, and the union added that its members would now consider all options, including taking strike action.
General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This reckless move by Ministers is wholly unnecessary and risks putting both claimants and job centre staff in harm's way.
“DWP staff have been doing an incredible job delivering key services such as Universal Credit and helping those most in need, access the assistance they require, throughout the pandemic.
“It is counterproductive and arrogant for ministers to risk staff and the wider public’s health by resuming normal jobcentre opening hours before the vaccine is fully rolled out and when these services are being successfully delivered from home.
“The anger of our members is palpable and we are not ruling out strike action, until a just settlement is found.”