Jobcentre Plus call centre staff to strike

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The Independent Online

Thousands of workers in Jobcentre Plus call centres are to stage a 48-hour strike this week in a row over working conditions and claims of "excessive monitoring", it was announced today.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at seven sites will take industrial action on Thursday and Friday (January 20/21) after previously voting in favour of a walkout.

The union said staff have complained about "intolerable" conditions, including excessive monitoring and inflexible working conditions.

The offices affected are Glasgow, Newport in South Wales, Norwich, Sheffield, Makerfield, near Wigan and Manchester, with up to 3,500 workers due to take action.

The union said it wanted staff to have the same flexi-time arrangements as in the rest of the Department for Work and Pensions, more varied, satisfying work and an end to a "target" driven culture, particularly by changing the way "unrealistic average call times" are used.

Officials claimed "oppressive" working conditions in Jobcentre Plus were causing high levels of stress and sickness, adding that staff were leaving at an "alarming" rate.

PCS official Martin John said: "Our members want to give genuine customer service but call handling targets mean callers are not having their inquiries dealt with.

"This is about respect. We want both customers and staff to be respected by the DWP, and we will continue to push for decent working conditions and a properly resourced public service."