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Article about the strike from Peoples Press (republished) 12/04/2011

Posted by pcsdwpsheffield in Uncategorized.
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The branch would like to point out that, contrary to the (otherwise good) article below, it is only Call Centre staff who are going out on strike on Monday, and not Jobcentre staff. Jobcentres, therefore, will not be shut down for the day, but the plan is that the service phone lines will be offline.

JOBCENTRE STAFF VOTE TO STRIKE.

Thousands decide to walk out on April 18 in row over assault on conditions and service

Jobcentres across the country will be shut down for the day on April 18 following a massive vote for strike action by members of the Public and Commercial Services union yesterday.
Thousands of Jobcentre Plus staff said Yes to a 24-hour strike in a row over working conditions which has been exacerbated by what the union describe bitterly as management intransigence.
PCS members based in more than 30 call centres across England, Scotland and Wales will also walk out, noting that management is showing “little willingness” to resolve the dispute.

The strike will hit call centres including those in Glasgow, Dundee, Newport, Bridgend, Bangor, Sheffield, Halifax, Norwich, Southend, Newcastle upon Tyne, Middlesbrough, Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Derby, Coventry, Exeter and Bristol.
Seventy per cent of the union’s 7,000 Jobcentre Plus members who took part in the ballot voted for strike action on a turnout of 43 per cent.
The planned action follows a two-day strike in January by more than 2,000 Jobcentre Plus workers in seven new centres who complained that they had been forcibly moved from processing benefit claims to handling inquiries by phone.
PCS said it wants to improve the levels of customer service in call centres, end the use of “unrealistic” average call times and introduce proper flexible working arrangements.
The union’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) group president Jane Aitchison said: “We are being prevented from providing a good-quality service to the public because of unnecessary and unrealistic call centre targets. “We entered into negotiations in good faith because we care about the help and advice we give to some of the most vulnerable people in society. “It’s very disappointing that our management didn’t do the same.” And the union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka accused the government of driving down standards and punishing those on benefits. “With unemployment rising and welfare recipients being blamed for an economic crisis they did not cause, it
is outrageous that standards are being driven down,” he said. “Instead of punishing people who are claiming benefits through no fault of their own, the government should be investing in our public services to help get people back to work quicker and to help our economy to grow.”
A DWP spokesman said: “We have to ensure that our service is available when our customers, who include some of the most vulnerable people in the country, need us. “We use performance measures to ensure that performance and productivity are high, and we deliver value for money for the taxpayer.”
Mark Serwotka called on DWP Secretary Iain Duncan Smith yesterday to apologise for dismissing claims that jobcentre staff are being forced to stop people’s benefits to meet targets. Mr Serwotka said: “When this story broke Mr Duncan Smith described it as ‘claptrap’ and a ‘conspiracy’ but, faced with the overwhelming evidence that these targets are still in place, his department has been forced to backtrack. The secretary of state should issue a full and public apology for what was a piece of outrageous spin when he must have known what was happening.”
paddym@peoples-press.com

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