Jobcentre call centres strike against
Jobcentre staff who deal with
calls from people entitled to benefits are striking today over
oppressive working conditions and unrealistic targets.
More than 6,000 PCS members in 32 call centres in England, Scotland
and Wales are reigniting industrial action first taken last year
against draconian conditions that prevent them from providing the
kind of service callers require and deserve.
Despite negotiations and a review of services designed to ease the
excessive target-driven culture, jobcentre management is still
refusing to give staff the flexibility they need to deal with
enquiries fully and professionally. A shortage of staff is also
adding to problems.
Some flexibility to the targets allowed for call handling times has
been introduced, but set at arbitrary levels that, worryingly,
favour shorter calls over ones that might take a bit longer.
From a PCS press release
Hundreds of PCS members at the
DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) contact centre in Chorlton,
south Manchester, supported PCS' strike action today.
Pickets described the "heinous" regime of bullying and psychological
pressure on staff by a management determined to drive staff out of
In the last 18 months, nearly 200 of what used to be over 600 jobs
at the site have been lost. The extra workload has all been dumped
on the remaining staff.
Further strikes will be well supported, as was the Socialist Party's
petition for a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate at
the Manchester Central byelection this autumn.
Over 200 PCS members were on strike at the Derby contact centre
today with a well attended picket line.
Staff were describing the worsening conditions they face in call
centres. Also, the lack of willingness from management to abide by
agreements won by previous strike action.
Strikers were determined to take further action to win this dispute
but also agreed with the Socialist Party demand that we need a
24-hour general strike against all cuts and privatisation.
Despite management organising all-staff propaganda meetings to
attack the union position, and censorship of union campaign posters
that were banned from offices, the overwhelming majority of PCS
members at Lincoln Contact Centre supported today's strike over
staffing, conditions and privatisation.
Five call centre workers, supported by three PCS officials and seven
supporters from other unions, manned the picket lines for three
Two PCS members were turned away this morning, demonstrating the
importance of active picketing to win over members on the day.
Workers don't take strike action lightly, but the only time that
call centres have improved as workplaces has been through strike
Let's hope today's show of strength forces management to make real
improvements to end this dispute so we can focus on supporting some
of the most vulnerable people in society.