By Public and Commercial Services union - 13th August 2012
Government call centre workers who are reprimanded for wishing jobless people ‘good luck’ are on strike today in protest at their target-driven working conditions.
The walkout by 6,000 civil servants is re-igniting a dispute that started last year.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) who work at 32 call centres in England, Scotland and Wales have been taking industrial action against draconian conditions that prevent them from providing the kind of service callers require and deserve.
Earlier this year the union produced a series of posters that highlighted bullying management practices – including reprimands for wishing callers ‘good luck’.
Bosses banned the posters from union notice boards.
Despite negotiations and a review of services designed to ease the excessive target-driven culture, jobcentre management is still refusing to give staff the flexibility they need to deal with enquiries fully and professionally. A shortage of staff is also adding to problems.
Some flexibility has been introduced to the targets allowed for call-handling times - but it is set at arbitrary levels that favour shorter calls over ones that might take a bit longer.
The union says this appears to confirm fears that jobcentre bosses are only interested in getting claimants off the phone rather than dealing with their enquiries properly.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka – a former benefits office worker - said: "With unemployment remaining high and our economy in the grip of recession, it is shameful that jobcentre bosses are still refusing to let their staff provide the kind of help and advice that people need.
"These call centres provide a vital lifeline. 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."