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Latest News - August 2012

August 13, 2012
Jobcentre workers go on strike over 'oppressive work conditions'
Source: People Management
By: Michelle Stevens

PCS unhappy over target-driven culture
Thousands of jobcentre call handlers have gone on strike today over “oppressive working conditions and unrealistic targets”.

More than 6,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have taken industrial action in 32 call centres across England, Scotland and Wales.

The union claims that a target driven culture is preventing call centre staff from answering benefit enquiries fully, as management is “only interested in getting claimants off the phone.”

PCS first called a walkout over the issue last year, but a subsequent service review had not resulted in greater flexibility over call length, said the union. A staff shortage was exacerbating the problem, it added.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that high levels of unemployment meant there was an elevated demand for advice on benefits and crisis loans.

"These call centres provide a vital lifeline,” he explained. “Enquiries are often complicated, and people struggling to find their way around the benefits system are often understandably desperate and upset, but staff are being forced to end calls as quickly as possible just to meet an artificial target.”

“Our members care about the services they provide and they want to be able to help people properly, not have to fob them off,” Serwotka added.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted that it had been negotiating with the union and that the impact of the strike would “be limited”.

“We are disappointed that some staff are taking industrial action which we think is unnecessary,” said a DWP spokesperson. “We have gone to great lengths to resolve issues with unions.

“Jobcentres and benefit payments will be unaffected and claimants will be able to access some information online, so any impact will be limited.”



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