PCS Universal Credit staff start two-day strike

PCS members in two-day walkout over "oppressive" Universal Credit working conditions, but department says plans in place for "smooth running" of the service

By matt.foster

20 Jul 2015

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union working on the government's Universal Credit welfare reform scheme have gone on strike, citing "increasingly oppressive working conditions".

The walkouts – which will continue through tomorrow and be followed by further action short of a strike until mid-August – are taking place at the Department for Work and Pensions' Bolton and Glasgow sites. 

The strike follows a ballot in which 84% of members voted in favour of industrial action, on a turnout of 56%, according to the PCS.

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In a statement announcing the action, the union said its members had raised concerns over the administration of the scheme, including "a lack of resources, an oppressive management culture, inadequate training, hard to reach targets and staff shortages".

A spokesperson for the DWP said the strikes would involve only "a small minority" of Universal Credit staff and that contingency plans were in place to ensure the "smooth running of the service" at the two sites.

"The fact is staff are already administering Universal Credit in almost 50% of Jobcentres, and feedback shows they feel supported and confident in delivering this major welfare reform," the spokesperson added.

Universal Credit aims to merge a number of existing means-tested benefits and tax credits. But it has suffered a series of setbacks since its inception, with the DWP choosing to "reset" the scheme in 2014. The latest assessment of the project by the Major Projects Authority said that the Universal Credit "remains on track against plans announced in September 2014".

Look out for our in-depth look at the state of Universal Credit in the latest edition of Civil Service World (247), part of our series looking at the government's Major Projects

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