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Jobcentre Plus staffing – PCS demands all FTA staff are made permanent 22/02/2011

Posted by pcsdwpsheffield in Uncategorized.

Republished from national DWP briefing 

Department for Work & Pensions Group

To:  Branch Secretaries, Additional Branch Contact, Regional Secretaries, GEC
18 February 2011

Yesterday Jobcentre Plus agreed to offer contract extensions, of between 3 to 6 months, to up to 3,950 Fixed Term Appointment (FTA) staff. There are currently 7,000 FTA staff in Jobcentre Plus. Management were not able to give PCS the detail as to where they will be offering these contract extensions. Instead they say that it will be 4 or 5 weeks before they are in a position to clarify this and give members the information that they need.   PCS believe this is a disgraceful situation, especially as many FTA contracts are due to end in the next 4 to 5 weeks.

As in the previous exercise to extend FTA’s, management say that it is likely that contract extensions will be predominantly in those Job Centres and Contact Centres with the highest level of reliance on FTA staff, although extensions in BFD have not been ruled out. Where necessary, exercises to select who will be offered an extension will be run using the DWP policy on Selection.

PCS views this as a very short term measure that fails to address the staffing crisis in Jobcentre Plus and fails to give our FTA members the certainty about their future that they need. Extensions to FTA contracts only serve to delay the problem. It resolves nothing for our members in the long run. Extensions restricted to as little as three to six months are far too short and are unlikely to give FTA members much more reassurance about their future than they currently have. It is certainly unlikely to make our FTA members feel valued and respected by their employer.

Unemployment rising
Already many FTA’s have had their contracts ended unnecessarily. This latest proposal would mean many more facing having their contract ended. This is completely unacceptable to PCS. There is no sign of unemployment reverting to the pre-recessions levels and most commentators expect it to increase further this year. Indeed the latest figures this week showed unemployment continuing to rise. The sensible response of Jobcentre Plus would be to ensure that it retained all the staff it needs to deal with the rising unemployment. This can only be done by offering the FTA’s permanent posts, as PCS has consistently argued. It makes no sense forcing FTA staff to stop helping the unemployed simply to become unemployed themselves instead.

Spend to save
The decision not to make the FTA’s permanent will not even save money in the long run. The FTA’s are essential to Jobcentre Plus successfully getting the unemployed back into work. If they leave then less unemployed will be helped back to work and so the cost to the government in higher unemployment will easily outweigh any savings from ending FTA contracts.

High turnover
Permanency is needed to prevent the excessively high turnover among FTA staff and to give them the security over their future that they deserve. The alternative is that we lose high quality staff that we desperately need. PCS will continue to push Jobcentre Plus to convert the FTA staff into permanent staff. Management have told PCS that they have not ruled out making FTA staff permanent. It is therefore essential that we all maximise the pressure on management to do this.

3,950 is not enough
PCS does not accept management’s decision to restrict the offer of extensions to just 3,950 staff. PCS pressed management, as a minimum, to offer an extension to every FTA. Management claim that 3,950 is the number they need in order to manage the anticipated workloads and that the extensions will be offered where the pressure of work is highest. Management also say that they need to consider potential surplus staff from other parts of DWP and the wider civil service as they develop their staffing plans. However they acknowledge that the staffing situation in Jobcentre Plus is exceptionally fluid and their staffing plans may well be revised when the next set of official forecasts on future economic trends are received when the Budget is announced in March.

Action by PCS
Branches should ensure that local managers provide a detailed explanation on the FTA decisions being made locally. Management have agreed that this needs to be done to ensure staff are aware of what is being done and why.

Reps should make the case for every FTA, in every office, to have their contracts extended while we continue to argue for permanent contracts. Branches should ensure they use the local workload data to back up their case. Members should also be encouraged to write again to their MP to maximise the pressure politically on Ministers to make the FTA’s permanent.

The GEC will be stepping up the campaign to get our members the job security they need. We are raising the issue with the PCS Parliamentary group. We are demanding an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive and will be issuing further campaigning materials to branches.
Negotiations Officer

Group Assistant Secretary



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