DWP staff strike over ‘unmanageable’ Universal Credit workloads
PCS says department is only willing to temporarily ‘share the pain’ of welfare reform workload rather than provide permanent additional resources for over-stretched staff
DWP staff at two Universal Credit service centres are taking strike action today and tomorrow over what the Public and Commercial Services union has called “unmanageable workloads” for staff involved in implementing in the government’s major welfare reform.
Staff at the Wolverhampton and Walsall centres were balloted for industrial action last month, and PCS announced on Friday that over 90% of the 274 staff balloted had voted in favour of strike action.
Following the vote, the union announced staff would strike today and tomorrow.
PCS said the rollout of the government’s flagship welfare reform, which will merge six working-age benefits into one payment, has made some DWP staff's workloads unmanageable, and has made five demands of the department to ease the pressure. These include hiring 5,000 new staff nationwide and introducing permanent contracts for fixed term staff to increase capacity as more people transition onto the new benefit system. It also wants the department to limit the number of phone calls per case manager, commit to service centres rather than contact centres, improve staff consultation, and a implement a quality-focused working environment, with an end to management by statistics.
Speaking ahead of the two-day action, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said DWP staff work with the most vulnerable in society and never take strike action lightly.
“However, DWP management has refused to negotiate properly only offering to move work out of Wolverhampton on a temporary basis to other UC service centres," he added.
"This 'sharing the pain' approach by bosses is not going to wash amongst our members and is likely to inflame tensions further.
“What DWP bosses need to do is get back round the negotiating table and actually start listening to the genuine concerns from the experts in all of this – the workforce.”
CSW has approached DWP for a comment.
Responding to the announcement of the strike ballot last month, a DWP spokesperson said the department was determined to give all employees, including those delivering Universal Credit, the necessary resources to carry out their roles successfully, including manageable workloads.
“Our top priority remains assessing and making payments to customers. We are comfortable with current staffing levels and will monitor and reallocate resource where necessary.”
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