PCS corona advice

Dear member,
You are invited to attend the 2018 PCS DWP Bolton and Bury Branch Annual General Meeting
Date: Friday 9th February 2018. Location: Bolton Library, Lecture Theatre 1.
Time: 1pm – 2pm
Guest Speaker:
Guest speaker: Mark Page, DWP Group Assistant Secretary.
If you wish to attend, please advise / book the time ASAP with your team leader.
*Please use your right to attend the most important branch meeting of the year for reports and debate on the workplace issues that affect you*
There is no flexi credit for time off to attend this year, but see your local branch rep about requesting time off as Trade Union Activities ( TUA).Or you can use assumed consent if on a non fixed end time and you work more than than half your standard working day.

Use your right to attend the Annual General Meeting of Bolton and Bury branch on 9 February. This circular confims that you can use trade union activities ( TUA) to attend the AGM. You will not have any pay deducted from your salary if the meeting lasts less than half the standard working day. (3.42 or 3.24)

Update from PCS Universal Credit Liaison Group
09 Jan 2018 - An update for members on the Universal Credit Liaison Group meeting held on 28 November 2017.
The PCS national executive committee set up the Universal Credit Liaison Group (UCLG) some time ago to discuss issues arising from the transfer of staff from HMRC to DWP to work on Universal Credit and to discuss the union’s wider campaigning activity on this far reaching welfare reform. The group met intermittently up until August of 2017. However, it has now been agreed that it will meet at least quarterly and that an update will be provided to members in both DWP and HMRC following each meeting.

The UCLG is made up of members appointed by the NEC and members appointed by the DWP and HMRC groups. NIPSA, our sister union in Northern Ireland, is also invited to the meetings of the UCLG. NIPSA represents both the members who work for the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency, who will deliver UC in Northern Ireland, and the members who work for DWP in Northern Ireland, many of whom will be involved in delivering UC for the mainland UK.

The current membership of the committee is:
Ian Bartholomew – PCS FTO and secretary, Fran Heathcote – Chair, Sam Hall – NEC
Hector Wesley – NEC, Baljit Johal – DWP, Dave Owens - DWP, Mark Page – DWP
Katrine Williams – DWP, Steve Ryan – HMRC, Colette Smith – HMRC, Tony McMullen – NIPSA

The most recent UCLG meeting was held in the PCS Office, Leeds on Tuesday 28 November 2017. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday 12 January 2018.

Roll Out
We welcome the fact that pressure from PCS, MPs and various organisations has resulted in the slowing down of the UC Full Service rollout. However, we still believe that rollout should have been paused until the, not insignificant, problems with UC are fully ironed out. 
The recent budget announced that there will now be a slowing down of the UC Full Service rollout from February 2018. Instead of 50 Jobcentres per month going live, there will now only be 10 per month for February to April, an increase to 41 in May and then 60 per month, still with a pause in August. The resulting impact is that full rollout will not now be complete until the end of December 2018. It was also announced that new claims to UC Live Service will cease from 31 December 2017. This will mean many more claims, during one of the busiest months of the year for new claims being made for legacy benefits. Where Full Service has not yet rolled out those people who would have been eligible to make a new claim to UC will now have to claim JSA. It will also mean significantly more people claiming ESA and IS, as 120 less Jobcentres will now roll-out with Full Service between February and the end of April.

In addition to slowing down the rollout, there has also been the introduction of free telephone lines for all benefits (This has been a long-term goal of PCS) and the removal of the seven day waiting period for UC. Whilst welcome for UC claimants, this will create a discrepancy, and significant detriment for those people who still have to claim JSA and ESA. It was agreed that, through the PCS Parliamentary Group, we will raise this with a view to applying pressure on the Government to remove the waiting days for all benefits. The changes will also see an increased demand for staff to work on legacy benefits, with a reduction, at least in the short-term, of staff needed to move onto UC. We have asked for an urgent meeting with DWP management to discuss these wider impacts, and we meet with UC management on 16 January 2018, where we will be discussing issues, including staffing, in some detail.

HMRC Transfers
The on-going move of members from HMRC to DWP is continuing with the phased transfer of staff from two HMRC sites in Preston. The members will become part of what is currently the DWP Preston Central Office Branch, which over time will incorporate all members in Preston. Officers from the DWP North West Region have worked with the branch and the exporting HMRC branch, holding inductions and members meetings with those transferring. We will continue to get DWP and HMRC branches to work together around future transfers and are producing guidance for branches and a standard letter to issue to all members who move from HMRC to DWP as part of the UC rollout.

Good News
One significant issue for members transferring to DWP should now be resolved. Members are transferring on COSOP terms, which means that existing HMRC contractual terms apply unless people opt to take on full DWP terms and conditions. In relation to working hours, UC management were interpreting the HMRC contracts as allowing them to ask transferees to work any hours they require. This meant that there was pressure put on staff to cover more than one 6.30 tent-pole, as management believed former HMRC staff were not covered by the protections in the Employee Deal agreement. However, PCS took the issue up with DWP HR, arguing that the HMRC contracts were not so flexible as to allow DWP to ask people to work whatever they wanted, and that the DWP Flexi Working Hours Policy, which also sets out a maximum of one late finish per week, covers all staff. This has been accepted by DWP, so no one transferring from HMRC can be required to work more late finishes than any other DWP member of staff. Further Improvements Negotiated
It has been agreed that we can hold PCS induction meetings with all future transferees from HMRC to DWP. 
The UCLG resolved that we would approach DWP with a demand that all PCS reps who transfer from HMRC should receive the PCS DWP specific training, regardless of what previous training they have had. This training, a three day new reps course and two day personal cases course, is on official duty time and is paid for by DWP. Since the meeting we have reached agreement with DWP Employee Relations that these courses will be available for all reps who transfer from HMRC, and we will be contacting the branches with reps in that position to facilitate this.

In-Work Conditionality and Staff as Claimants
The pilot on In-Work Conditionality is currently running, and we await the detailed evaluation, which is due mid-2018. This is unique to UC and has no precedent to learn from in any welfare system anywhere in the world. We believe that this area is fraught with problems and will continue to campaign for it to be scrapped.
We have also raised concerns about how claims to UC from people who are employed by DWP will be handled. The current number of staff claiming UC is likely to be very small, but, as there is no requirement on DWP staff to inform their employer that they are claiming UC, DWP have no idea of the act number. However, once conversion of existing Tax Credit claims to UC begins (date and timeframe as yet unknown) a significant number of our members will be in the position of both working for DWP and being in receipt of the main benefit that it administers. This will also bring into focus the issue of how In-Work Conditionality will apply to DWP’s own staff. We have asked for DWP to consider setting up a specific unit for handling the UC claims of its staff members, which is what currently exists with HMRC for staff who are in receipt of Tax Credits, but so far DWP have been reluctant to this. We are also trying to negotiate protections for our members, both those claiming UC and those who have to deal with claims from their colleagues.

Northern Ireland
PCS is not directly responsible for the staff who work on UC in Northern Ireland. NIPSA is the union to which the vast majority of Civil Servants in Northern Ireland belong, including those who are working for DWP. Due to the current recruitment policies in operation within the Northern Ireland Civil Service, there are a number of agency workers employed in the delivery of UC for the mainland UK. It was agreed that we would specifically demand that DWP should cease the use of agency staff and only employ staff directly. We will continue to work closely with our sister union on issues of joint interest like Universal Credit.

Welfare Reform and Campaigning
We have continued our campaigning work over recent months. This has included providing evidence to select committees, working with opposition parties, giving detailed information to the PCS Parliamentary Group, getting our issues raised and questions asked in parliament. We have also made regular contact with the press and media. UC is currently under significant scrutiny and is attracting a lot of public interest. We will attempt use this as a means of gaining improvements both for our members and those who claim UC.

Keeping Up the Work for Members
In addition to the UCLG, the DWP Group have a Universal Credit Advisory Committee that meets quarterly. Members should feed in their concerns about UC via their branch to that committee.The rollout of UC will continue to present many challenges, and we will continue to use all means available to us to highlight our issues and make gains. We will continue to keep members informed of developments and progress. 

Universal Credit and Assumed Consent
21 Dec 2017
Earlier this week a number of sites reported that local managers were placing restrictions on flexible working, particularly in relation to the use of assumed consent. The restrictions included members being told that assumed consent had been suspended over the Christmas period, and at least one site issued an e-mail to staff advising them that assumed consent would only be allowed in emergency situations, and an HEO would make the decision as to whether the circumstances classed as an emergency or not. There was even one report of a member being told that they faced disciplinary action for using assumed consent to leave work early.

PCS Response
When the issues were raised with us with we immediately raised it with UC management, and we were given an assurance on 19 December that assumed consent had not been withdrawn. Management believed that they had allowed as much leave as possible, so were operating with staffing levels that meant that they would be busy, and needed those in work to do as many hours as possible, but they did not believe the situation was so exceptional as to warrant any suspension of Assumed Consent. They also said that no one was being disciplined for using assumed consent. 
On Wednesday we received contact from several other UC Service Centres about similar restrictions being placed on members in those sites. We again raised these with management and a telekit was arranged for late afternoon. Management reiterated that this was a busy time and they would like people to make as little use of flexi as possible, so that they could make sure all claimants get paid and that those staff in work are under as little pressure as possible. However, they maintained that they were doing this by asking staff to consider the delivery of business and not by withdrawing assumed consent or stopping people from making use of flexible working. They accepted that some poor messaging had gone out in some places, and that certain sites were being over restrictive. They agreed to put out a clear message to all staff and managers. In this (attached for reference) they confirm: “We have not withdrawn the use of flexi in this period or the use of assumed consent.”

The management position is that, as should be standard practice in normal circumstances, where someone wants to make use of assumed consent they should advise their immediate line manager as a courtesy. What could be different is that the manager might have a conversation about whether someone could stay longer, if there are payments outstanding or other urgent work that needs to be carried out. However, if the member says “no, I need to leave, or come in later” then this should not be a problem. There should be no requirement for approval to be sought from HEO or SEO level.

There should also be no automatic cancellation of, or ban on, the use of TU time over the festive period.

Any continuing problems should be notified to

Universal Credit Update December 2017
18 Dec 2017
PCS has held discussions with Universal Credit management including People Survey Results, management structures, the impact of the recent budget announcements and festive leave plans.

People Survey Results
The GEC has reviewed the data from the People Survey. Unfortunately the way the data has been presented makes it difficult to be clear what the issues are in Universal Credit. This is because the hierarchy has been built to reflect a future management structure not the structure of the organisation at the time the survey was taken. Until the management structure is better developed PCS will be looking at the Area Directorate survey results at a national level. 
PCS is very keen to engage with Universal Credit management particularly in order to address the concerns expressed by members working in the Service Centres about the levels of stress they are experiencing.

Superficially the results would back the reports of high levels of stress as virtually every Service Centre has responded negatively to the statement in the survey “I have an acceptable workload”. This is a clear indication that members support PCS’s claim the Universal Credit Service Centres are need more staff.  The GEC will ask for further analysis of the data affecting members working in Universal Credit with a view to addressing the concerns that members continue to raise with us and that are evident from the survey results.

Management Structure
The survey results are presented in the format of the new Area Directorate Structure. There are 4 Area Directorates: Scotland, North of England, central England and Wales, and Southern England and London and the home counties. Directors have been appointed to manage all of the Service Centres located within these areas and all the associated jobcentres. The aspiration is to have as many Service Centres as possible dealing with the Jobcentres in their geographical vicinities with the exception of London and parts of Southern England where Service Centre activity will be delivered from more geographical disparate areas such as Northern Ireland and the Bolton. The structure below this is still developing. A trade union side structure will be convened that reflects the management hierarchy.

Budget announcements
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the budget that new claims to Universal Credit Live Service will end at the end of December and in addition the rollout of jobcentres to Full Service will dramatically slow down from 50 to 10 between now and June at which point the rollout is due to ramp up again. This means that significant numbers of claimants that were not planned for will be claiming JSA, ESA and IS during this period. As a consequence staffing numbers will have to be reviewed for both Working Age Benefits and Universal Credit. PCS has asked for a meeting at the earliest opportunity to discuss how the budget changes will impact on staffing across all areas of DWP.Training for Universal Credit Full Service
Many members have contacted the GEC with issues regarding the belief that they are expected to give up part time working patterns in order to undertake training for Universal Credit Full Service. The PCS Universal Credit negotiating team confirmed with senior managers in UC that full time learning would be encouraged where it was possible but that there was no desire to pressurise or force part time staff into full time working patterns whilst undertaking training. In most situations solutions should be available for part time staff to undertake training and maintain their working patterns if they have to. 
Additionally concerns have been expressed about the training schedule over the peak leave months of August and September. PCS have been clear that training commitments should be minimised during this period as the pressure brought on the staff left operating jobcentres at these times could become unacceptable.

Festive planning
Universal Credit plans for managing staffing levels during the festive period have been shared with PCS. We welcome the steps taken to manage business continuity over this period and we are committed to ensuring that claimants receive the service they need. The festive plans include 54 additional staff from the Surge Team, offers of overtime, support from jobcentre staff, offer of extra hours for Twilight Shift workers, communications time over the three week festive period being for essential communications only e.g. replacing team meetings and reading time with short buzz meetings as necessary. Trade Union Duties will be deemed as essential.
We are also clear that assumed consent and access to flexible working has not been suspended during the festive period and it would not be in the gift of local managers to do so. There should be no repercussions for members who choose to use assumed consent over this period. Any suspension of assumed consent should be notified to

Know your workplace rights in cold weather
12 Dec 2017
As the snow and ice hits PCS members across the UK you should ensure you know your rights about working in low temperatures.
PCS has guidance on workplace temperatures with health and safety regulations stating that the temperature of all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable, with a recommended minimum of 16°C or 13°C if employees are doing physical work.
Your employer must provide enough thermometers for you to measure the temperature. If you are required to work outside, then winter clothing is classed as personal protective equipment (PPE) and should be provided wherever there is a risk.
However, guidance produced by the Health and Safety Executive makes it clear that, even at 16° the workplace temperature may still not be 'reasonable'. Thermal comfort is dependent on more than just temperature: air movement and humidity are also important factors. In draughty conditions, people feel colder than they would at the same temperature with no significant draught.
Similarly, people can tolerate higher temperatures in a room with good air movement than in a still and humid atmosphere.

Preventing or alleviating the worst effects
When temperatures are uncomfortably low, managers should be looking to alleviate the worst effects:

  • by allowing breaks for people to get hot drinks, or to permit them to warm up
  • by providing additional heating
  • by allowing anyone with particular health concerns to leave the workplace, either to go home or to move to another workplace which does have a reasonable temperature
  • by relaxing dress code requirements where appropriate.
It may also be possible to relax hours of attendance/flexible working hours rules, where opening hours for public access are not a critical issue, to allow people to start work earlier in the day, take longer lunch breaks and/or finish earlier.
Home working might be a possibility in certain cases – though home temperatures may be no more acceptable than those in the workplace

If you cannot negotiate a suitable solution, contact your PCS branch, regional centre or headquarters officers as appropriate.

Members can opt to vote by post, email or phone (all members involved in the ballot will receive a ballot by post). More info here.

If you have not received a ballot paper in the post or received details of how to vote online to your personal email address by 20 October you should request a replacement ballot paper before 30 October by emailing

PCS pay campaign 2017

Here's a link to a Facebook live event this Wednesday evening (11.10.2017) at 7pm: 
This event will be hosted by journalist Rachel Shabi, PCS leader Mark Serwotka will be live, answering your questions.
Please log into this event, have your say.

October 2017:
Green report and environmental info downloadable here.

September 2017: Theresa May urged to halt Universal Credit roll-out (BBC news).

August 2017:
Click HERE to download a pdf copy of Yasmin Qureshi MP's letter to Damian Hinds, the Minister Of State for Employment, dated August 3rd 2017, regarding her objection to the closure of Farnworth Jobcentre.

July 2017:
Farnworth Job Centre closure planned.

May 2017:
Your Branch reps represented you at PCS Conference (using their own annual leave to attend).
Click here to download the initial Conference motions for PCS DWP Group and National conferences.
Click here to download the Record of Decisions from PCS National Conference.

April 2017:


As a result of concerns raised by our members regarding the e-mails and discussions that have taken place with line managers about working patterns over the next two weeks. Branch officials have contacted PCS HQ this morning to seek clarification of the message that is being banded about, which would appear to contradict the Employee Deal. As a direct result of ours and other branches raising this issue PCS have spoken to DWP Management and have issued the following Members Bulletin. PLEASE DOWNLOAD THIS PCS ADVICE CIRCULAR.

'Employee Deal' (Pay / Flexible Working Hours / Employee Deal updates) - Some questions answered here.
Click here for further advice in challenging unagreed working patterns.

26th January 2017 - Office Closure Proposals Announcement
Some known sites affected in the local area:
ATHERTON JOBCENTRE (all staff to transfer to Leigh), FARNWORTH JOBCENTRE (all staff to transfer to Bolton), HYDE BC, OLDHAM BC

At 10am this morning after months of secrecy, DWP announced their plans for a largescale office closures programme across all parts of the department. While the vast majority of DWP offices will remain open, National PCS has made clear to the department that we oppose closures that either disadvantage our members or worsen the service the department delivers to the public. The GEC has made clear that we will resist, and campaign against, any unnecessary closures. The proposals that DWP is announcing today are:

By March 2018 (Some of these have already been announced)

  • 78 out of 714 Jobcentres to close with work and staff transferring to the nearest jobcentres
  • A further 80 Jobcentres to be co-located with local authority premises
  • 30 Back of House Operational closures. This is out of 150 back of house Operations sites that currently exist now, (eg CMG, sites, pensions centres, benefit processing sites and contact centres.
  • Corporate centre hubs to be limited to six, with two current corporate centres sites closing.

Transitional Sites
A further 40 Back of House Operational sites have been labelled transitional sites which means their future is only secure for the next three years, or five years for six of the 40 sites.

Job Centres
Some of the jobcentre closures and co-locations involve the work and the staff moving to sites that are nearby and easy to get to, and a small number have no staff permanently based on the site. PCS does not expect these to be particularly contentious.

However there are 18 jobcentre closures that are outside the ministerial commitment (i.e. 2 to 3 miles distance or 20 minutes by public transport from the old site to the new site.) These are likely to cause serious difficulties for our customers who will have to face longer journeys to visit their jobcentre.

There are also some parts of the country that have been disproportionally affected by these jobcentre announcements. 

Scotland 77 retentions, 15 closures, 4 co-locations Wales 55 retentions, 3 closures, 4 co-locations Central England 94 retentions, 6 closures, 14 co-locations, in addition to the 21 co-locations already live London and Home Counties 77 retentions, 24 closures, 6 co-locations North East 88 retentions, 10 closures, five co-locations North West 73 retentions, 14 closures, 9 co-locations Southern 94 retentions, 3 closures, 12 co-locations

Operational Back of House

Pensions Directorate
No March 2018 closures. 4 transitional sites. Cwmbran to re-locate to Cardiff.

Retain 6 CSACs (Hastings to move to new premises post 2018). Operational staff in Longbenton to move to Tyne View Park. 10 transitional sites.
2 closures with no nearby sites (Cumnock and Bishop Auckland). 7 closures relocating to reasonably nearby sites.

35 retentions, plus 47 retentions of small sites with under c.20 staff. 15 transitional sites
8 closures to ‘reasonably’ nearby sites, including Wembley relocating to Watford
4 closures with no nearby sites (Poole, Barrow, Llanelli, Nottingham Annesley)

Universal Credit
24 retentions. Dundee to merge with HMRC Dundee circa 2021.

Fraud and Compliance
5 retentions. Staff located in jobcentres will remain much as they are now but may be impacted by jobcentre closures and co-locations.

2 NINO retentions. 2 NINO closures to reasonably nearby sites. 1 closure to reasonably nearby site yet to be acquisitioned (Glasgow).
Staff in other sites to be brigaded into new hub locations

Debt Management
8 retentions. 2 transitional sites. 2 closures to reasonably nearby sites. Withdrawing from Longbenton

Corporate Centre
The Corporate Centre (CC) is to be centralised into 6 hubs - Quarry House Leeds, Sheffield, Peel Park Blackpool, Caxton House London, Longbenton Newcastle, and Manchester (site yet to be acquired).

This means that the Corporate Centre will no longer have a presence in Birmingham Five Ways, Birchwood Warrington, Preston Holborn House, and Durham House. Of these it is proposed that Birchwood Warrington and Preston Holborn House will close by March 2018.

Staff in the Corporate Centre will be badged as either core corporate, corporate delivery or business partners. All staff badged as core corporate will be expected to work the majority of their time out of one of the above hubs from March 2018. This will inevitable cause serious difficulties for many members who are not currently located within travelling distance of any of the above hubs.
Sites with no announcements

There are 18 sites where DWP is unable to make an announcement as commercial negotiations have not yet concluded.

Proposals not final decisions
DWP has repeatedly stressed that what has being announced today are a set of proposals and that no final decisions have been made. They have assured PCS that, while their proposals fit in with their strategic objectives, they will listen to the feedback from staff in the sites that are proposed to close and that they will take account of the consultation with the unions that begins today. 

There are 9 sites where it is clear there will be significant issues for members whose site is proposed to close by March 2018. These are Poole BSD, Barrow BSD, Annesley BSD, Llanelli BSD, Wembley BSD, Bishop Auckland CMG, Cumnock BSD, Holborn House CC and Birchwood CC. It is harder at this stage to gauge the impact on members of other proposed closures where at first sight the importing office is reasonably close to the exporting office. However this does not take into account where staff live which could be some distance from the importing office. Despite only receiving notification late on Wednesday of these announcements, a GEC member was present at all of these 9 sites to support members today.

In some of these sites DWP recognise that redeployment is likely to be more difficult, though they will try to redeploy all staff where possible. However DWP has also acknowledged that there may be sites where exits are required, and potentially redundancies. PCS has pressed the department for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, but the department is not willing to give such a guarantee, however the department is committed to taking all practical and reasonable steps to avoid compulsory redundancies. 

PCS Position
PCS is opposed to office closures unless they pose no issues for our members and no issues for our customers. Unfortunately many of these proposals will cause serious difficulties for many members and will impact seriously on customer service. In these case we will oppose the closures and campaign to keep the sites open. PCS will provide full support to all members in dealing with these announcements. National PCS  will, where necessary, work to maximise redeployment options for members and will oppose any moves to make staff redundant. The GEC will be considering all options in response to these announcements.

PCS circulated details of the end of the hated Ways Of Working to all affected members at the end of last week.

The total about-turn by UC management after the two days of Industrial Action shows that we can win. PCS full time officers will be coming to Bolton to gauge members feelings about acceptance of the revision and to take feedback about any issues that may still be there, due to the use of scheduling, even though all of the bad things WoW did have been reversed and there is an undertaking to never ever return to it.
PCS win massive improvements to working coinditions for members working on Universal Credit
   PCS win massive improvements to working coinditions for members working on Universal Credit

20.7.2015: Universal Credit dispute regarding Ways of Working:

Bolton and Bury PCS

From Bolton News, 5th June 2013:

PCS picket line
PCS picket line article

It's funny... almost. Someone came up to us when the newspaper photographer turned up and jokingly said "This is the bit it's all about." No offence, but that person just didn't get it. We wouldn't have minded being able go into work and doing our jobs, nice weather or not. But sometimes you have to stand up for yourselves and make your point. Otherwise, you just get trodden on. The majority aren't wrong.

2013 PCS Conference report, May 2013
: Compiled from reports by Ian Edmundson and Peter Entwistle

DWP Group Conference.

Monday’s DWP Group Conference had an unusually early start and late finish in order to get through as much business as possible in the reduced time that had been allowed. There was certainly no less business to discuss than in previous years. The DWP Group Conference mainly dealt with the motions we had been mandated upon regarding pay and terms and conditions and, despite the fact that there were issues that afftected us, which needed to be spoken about, Reps were very disciplined when it came to actually putting their hands up and instead, Conference worked in a very disciplined manner on getting through the business, compared to previous years where Reps would spend too much time posturing and waffling and scoring political points. Jane and Ian in the main voted on the motions on behalf of the Branch.

A couple of decent motions disappointingly fell as the proposing Branches were not represented at Conference, presumably due to the fact that annual leave had to be taken to attend.

It was utterly embarrassing to watch various factions in charge pointedly ignoring the raised right arm of others who weren't, which appeared to be in the air and ignored for most of the duration of the DWP Group Conference. When they couldn’t really for shame ignore them any longer, as hers was the only arm raised and Jane finally did get up to speak, she put a very convincing set of reasons forward as to why the GEC President and her pals were not exactly doing the members proud in return for their votes and how she had actually managed to lose all of the Reps in two other Unions paid time off for their Union Conferences. Ooops. Peter and Ian went for a rather nice curry and then a couple of drinks in the evening.

Tuesday am.
DWP Group Conference.

At the Group Conference in the morning, Jane and Ian voted on the motions. Peter was sat in the Observers gallery. This year they only opened the rear balcony for general observers (and the right hand balcony for trainee delegates during National Conference, which commenced in the afternoon). A generous hark back to guillotined motions for a change and a lot of business was done. 

As was the case, the day before, there were no real surprises when it came to the motions that were carried. The motion outcomes were very predictable and everyone got on with the business of dealing with the business at hand and voted in a united way to resist our employer’s attacks.

Tuesday pm / Wednesday.
DWP National Conference.

You can tell where the big money goes, when it comes to the spectacle that is PCS National Conference. We suddenly had huge video screens switched on to catch a close-up of every scratch of Janice Godrich’s nose and the sound was suddenly a lot better and there were signing interpreters and Martyn Jenkins was running amok putting potential speakers (and people who may have wanted to venture into the aisles) off from doing so by running around with his camera.

The real meat of the first session of National Conference was motion A510, regarding our National Campaign over pay and conditions. Mark Serwotka made a stirring speech regarding our intractable employer during the presentation of the 2012 PCS Annual Report. A possible (and very likely to happen) merger with UNITE was discussed and debated at length, though Mark was quite guarded in his language, saying nothing was signed yet and nothing was agreed. Watch this space.

The subject of a levy was raised as a way of fund-raising. A bit useless in the current financial climate and it’s also practically impossible now for Reps to go round offices collecting funds for Industrial action.

When the National Campaign motions were heard and the subject of moving forward and working closer with UNITE was debated, delegates called for card votes, as no one on the floor seemed to trust Janice’s counting of hands. From the Observer gallery, where Jane and I were sat, she looked to be dead on and they ayes seemed to have it, but there you go. The motions were carried, but let’s see the actual number of member votes cast and who wasn’t in the hall when they closed the doors. Peter fortunately had control of our card vote, as he was our only delegate present for most of National Conference.
Motions on the hated ‘Must Improve’ markings, which are nothing more than a shameful way of slashing the pay bill by lying about our staff’s ability to do their job, were also naturally carried overwhelmingly.

Peter and Ian went for a rather nice curry and then a couple of drinks in the evening.

The Facility Time debate was full of bold phrases like “they can take away our facility time, but we will just work smarter”. We wish people wouldn’t say things like that. We should be making a case to keep as much time as we can, instead of saying ‘do what you like to us’.

Ian got the train home, as previously arranged, at lunchtime on Wednesday, so missed the very end sessions of the National Conference,

Overall, this year’s PCS Conference was different from previous years in that Reps really stuck to dealing with the business at hand and overall, little factional behaviour could be detected in the hall.
Our Conference delegation did not all meet together at any point, as we stayed in different accomodation and we could have been a little bit more organised before we went down about exchanging our phone numbers. There is certainly a lesson to be learned.

Please note that all of the Branch Reps who attended PCS Conference in 2013 did so using their own annual leave.

* Attending Reps were repeatedly asked to contribute insight to this feature article.
Only Peter and Ian submitted articles, which have been edited together to comprise the above article.

Read more information about PCS conference 2013 here.

From Bolton News, 5th April 2013: Civil servants across Bolton go on strike

PCS members Bolton DWP

CIVIL servants in courts, Jobcentres and government buildings across Bolton have walked out on strike. 

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union downed tools at 1pm as part of a national campaign of industrial action in protest over cuts to pay, jobs and pensions.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ disability assessment centre at Elizabeth House in Back Spring Gardens, Bolton and Farnworth Jobcentres, the driving test centre in Weston Street, and both Bolton Crown Court and Bolton Magistrates Court were affected by the strikes. 

Up to 250,000 union members were set to join the walkouts nationally before heading to public rallies, with major protests taking place in both Liverpool and Manchester. The PCS wants a five per cent pay rise, or £1,200, for members, but claims the government is refusing to negotiate. 

Michael Hepworth, a PCS representative at Elizabeth House, estimated that around 350 people in his building had taken part. He said: “It’s to make a point to the government. I don’t think it will change anything. We’ve just had a reduction in our pensions and we haven’t had a pay rise for three years. In real terms our pay has gone down by 20 per cent.”
Union member Ian Foster said: “I was making more in the private sector 15 years ago than I do here. I wanted to work for the public sector for its job security, but that has gone. Jobs shouldn’t be an aspiration, they’re a right.”

A cabinet office spokesman called the action “disappointing”.
Original article here

VOTE: Civil servants strike over redundancy pay cut plan
Bolton News. Tuesday 9th March 2010

Geraldine Cole and Picket line outside Bolton DWP office.

BENEFIT OFFICE: Geraldine Cole, branch secretary of the PCS union, on the picket
line at Elizabeth House in Bolton town centre.

THE picket lines were manned by striking civil servants as they began two days of action in Bolton in protest at plans to cut redundancy pay. Up to 1,000 workers walked out yesterday as part of the action, which is being coordinated by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.About 50,000 government employees in the North West were taking part in the strike and lunchtime rallies were held in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston. The row is over proposals to cut redundancy payments for civil servants by up to a third and the action affects law courts, job centres, benefit offices and tax centres.
Dozens of PCS members across the region were also travelling to Westminster to lobby MPs on the changes.Geraldine Cole, Bolton and Bury branch secretary, who was leading the protest outside Elizabeth House, Bolton’s benefit centre off Le Mans Crescent, said the strike was a “last resort”. She added: “If we don’t stand up to this, it is going to make departments easier to privatise. We think about 15 per cent of staff have gone in to work, but there are about 450 members here on the picket line. Those who have gone in are non-union members.” 

Pete Sanger, assistant secretary for Greater Manchester Revenue and Customs’ Bury and Rochdale branch, and Caroline Reid, branch organiser, were leading the strike action outside the tax office in Churchgate. 

Mr Sanger said: “It is not just the compensation scheme, which is being reduced by about 60 per cent. The next thing will be an attack on pensions. 

“We haven’t seen many members of the union going in, so there seems to be quite a lot of support.”The walkout is the most serious action taken by the PCS since 1987 and further disruption is planned in the run-up to the General Election. Officials warned that driving tests would be cancelled, court cases delayed and queues would build up at ports and airports. 

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the union’s membership had grown since it had announced the strikes last month. He added: “The strike will show how vital these people are to the running of our society. Those on strike deliver services that touch our everyday lives, from the cradle to the grave.” 

Article by

The DWP Bolton & Bury Branch of PCS has over 600 members, based at Bolton Benefit Centre and 4 local JobCentres (and this figure is rising in the face of the staffing cuts, AA redundancies, the victimisation of members and reps by our particularly bad managers and the Government's attacks on DWP staff pay and conditions).

The Bolton Benefit Centre was the very first in the country to take claims for the controversial Universal Credit, which replaces the conventional DWP benefits and is currently the cause of much concern for the staff on the Bolton site and for the Tory Government.

Bolton DWP has a particularly bad reputation within DWP as 'a problem office' and to have an entirely different management style to the majority of the rest of DWP. Members (and Reps) on this site need protection from this bizarre and harsh management style and Trade Union membership is key in defending job security. Issues such as 'Must Improve' performance markings being given to members who have not deserved them are regular tasks for our reps to deal with and we have a pretty good success rate in overturning them because management do not seem to be able to read or follow DWP procedures properly.

PCS is a democratic organisation, run by our members, for our members. We campaign for fair pay and conditions, decent pensions for all and equality in the workplace and beyond. If you're not a member of PCS, there's never been a better time to join the union.


Pay 2018 – All Branch Members Meeting.
Wednesday 10th October 2018 at 11:00

Conference Room 4th Floor, Bolton UC Service Centre.

DWP has agreed for PCS to have members' meetings to discuss the 2018 DWP pay offers with a 30 minute flexi credit, plus reasonable travelling time, and with the use of official premises.

The guest speaker at our meeting will be Ian Bartholomew,  a member of the GEC. Please take the opportunity to come to the meeting and put your questions to a full time officer. At every meeting the speaker will call for members to vote, by a show of hands, on the following motion:"This office agrees that the three 2018 pay awards in DWP are unacceptable and demands that the Treasury provides additional money for DWP pay for all staff in all grades”
The PCS DWP GEC believes the pay offers are unacceptable for all grades, whether in or out of the employee deal, because:
  • the DWP has chosen not to make a business case to ask the Treasury for more money
  • the DWP has decided not to meaningfully review the Employee Deal despite a significant increase in inflation
  • the DWP has decided to distribute an underspend of the non-consolidated pot, which equates to £1.5 million, in a way that we believe is not fair or equitable
As a result these pay offers have:
  • Provided a below inflation increase for a large number of members
  • Provided no more money for opted-out members getting only 0.25%
  • Restricted the pay rise for most SEO to Grade 6 members to 1%
  • Provided a further pay freeze for most members not on DWP terms and conditions
The time has been given by DWP management for you to use to attend the meeting. Line managers should definitely not refuse permission to attend. If you will be attending, please inform your line manager via e-mail and if you could, please copy it to our e-mail in box at JCP Bolton BDC Trade Union Rep BOLTON.TRADEUNIONREP@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK and we shall add you to our list of attendees for security purposes.
Thank you for your support.

Member benefits:
Your PCS membership gives you access to a wide range of benefits including:
PCS Plus with savings and great ideas for your free time. Legal. Finance. Healthcare. Helplines

The new PCS plus membership scheme, exclusive for PCS members, is entirely free and ready to use today.
You need to register to access the offers. PCS Plus is managed by Boundless, formerly CSMA Club, who have been running one of the UK’s largest membership schemes for more than 90 years. Your new PCS Plus membership can help you to make the most of your free time.
You can enjoy a huge, ever-changing choice of great-value days out, holidays and experiences to share with friends and loved ones. Plus ideas to help you get the most out of every moment, so you spend less time searching and more time doing. It’s ready to use straight away – all you need to do is set up your account online. Join now.

From savings on your car insurance to great value tickets and holiday deals, there are many ways to save with your membership. From family days out and sporting events to relaxing spa days and exclusive theatre packages, there’s an event or experience to suit every taste.


NEC statement following the PCS pay ballot
The PCS national executive committee met on 24 July to discuss the outcome of the pay ballot and made a number of key decisions to continue the pay campaign in 2018 and 2019.
A huge thank you to each and every one of you that voted in the ballot. You were let down so very badly by those people who did not take the trouble to vote. If someone says to you that your vote changes nothing here is real proof to the contrary.


Permanent Secretaries' objectives for the 2018-19 financial year are to be revised so they link to staff wellbeing and the implementation of mental health core standards.
The civil service pledged last year to adopt the standards set out in a government-commissioned review of mental health in the workplace, including to produce a mental health at work plan and to routinely monitor employee wellbeing. Civil Service World. More here

EVEN THE MAIN MANAGEMENT UNION SEES RED AND STARTS GRUMBLING: FDA general secretary says ministers must step up and champion their civil servants after "contemptible” process led unions to call for Treasury pay guidance to be withdrawn. Obviously having trouble paying their gas bills...
Dave Penman: "Ministers can no longer hide on pay – they must listen after ‘shambolic’ consultation". Civil Service World article here. 4 July 2018

Employee Deal Rotation 4 Preferences September 2018 – March 2019    
The Nationally binding Guidance and Agreement that Bolton's DWP's management can't seem to even read, never mind keep to and which they seem to just want to twist to suit them and not the staff.
To avoid as many of the issues as possible during previous Team Planning Tool Preferences input, please read the following guidance:
FWHA and how to manage working patterns
The DWP Flexible Working Hours Agreement (FWHA) is intended to be the primary means of managing hours and working patterns between colleagues from day to day (FWHA Policy 1). FWHA Procedure 2 lists Mandatory Principles, including Principle 2 (a), which states:
Employees and managers will engage constructively with the arrangements for managing regular working pattern plans in the How to: Manage working patterns guide. These are the collective arrangements for ensuring that, when added together at team level, and taking into account the associated safeguards, employees’ individual working patterns provide the number of employees needed by the business to maintain a consistently good service, especially at key times such as 08:00, 09:00, 17:00 and later.
FWHA Mandatory Principle 2 expects compliance with the How to Manage working patterns guide, which includes, at paragraph 8, requirements for all working pattern planning:

8. Employees may voluntarily undertake to work more than the following but managers must not use contractual authority to:
(a) fix both the start and the end of the same day;
(b) fix more than one in five consecutive working days beyond 17:00;
(c) fix more than one Saturday in four consecutive Saturdays;
(d) fix, before October 2017, evening work beyond 18:30, other than where it already occurs;
(e) fix Saturday work before October 2017, other than where it already occurs;
(f) fix a working pattern of more than five days per calendar week 

Those employees who have opted-out of the Employee Deal retain their original/legacy contractual working hours together with the assurance and instruction, under Working Hours & Working Patterns Advice Q12, that any contractual flexibility clause will not be used for up to at least 1st July 2020. However, the management of legacy contracts should, within the terms of such contracts, be consistent with the terms of the How to: Manage working patterns guide, including paragraph 8,so that there is no less favourable treatment. All working pattern planning for employees should not fix both the start and end of the same day, unless the employee chooses to do so. All employees may voluntarily choose to do more than expected under their contractual terms. Managers must adhere to the limits placed on the use of their authority under How to: Manage working patterns guide paragraph 8 and Advice Q12.  

How should a TPT preference input look?
Each colleague initially input’s their preferences in accordance with their contractual requirements – for those on Employee Deal this means inputting 1 Late finish (18:30pm) per week and the other days as you prefer.
Following this, each team will then endeavor collaboratively to meet the requirements at team level aka Tent-poles in a voluntary capacity if they are not already met. If, within the team, the requirements cannot be reached then the command as a whole is taken into account to reassess if demand requirements are adequately covered. At this point, and in the event that demand requirements are still not met, then a Line Manager can require & enforce individuals to meet the specified demand in accordance with the mandatory limits as per paragraph 8 above. To clarify, the demand requirements are; 8am, 9am, 5pm, and Late (currently 6:30pm).In short – a Line Manager should not be automatically enforcing any colleague to input anything other than their contractual requirements at the initial stage. 

In addition to the above, PCS Bolton & Bury Branch would like to reiterate the following in relation to current working practices that are proving to be somewhat contentious (the following information was previously issued to members on 20th February 2017).
Universal Credit: Fighting for Flexibility
Members in Universal Credit continue to face difficulties when asserting their rights at work. The following circular updates members on points of agreement with DWP, and points that so far there has been disagreement on. 

Flexing on at 7.30am
Where there is work to do, staff can start at 7.30am when they have a fixed start time of 8am. As all staff across UC live are trained to clear tasks – including Telephony Agents, Account Developers and Case Managers – and there are backlogs numbering into the hundreds of thousands, there is plenty of work to do. This exact paragraph has been agreed with UC national managers. 

Assumed Consent to Leave Early or Start Late
If you have a fixed start, once you have worked just over half a day, you have the assumed consent to flex off for the rest of the day, if you wish to.
Fixing a finish is the reverse – you can come to work late, so long as you work just over half a day up to and including the time you have agreed as your fixed finish time.
You can’t be asked to fix both a start and a finish. 

When you use these flexibilities, you do not have to find cover. Cover is built into the Employee Deal, because the employer has already determined how many people are needed at the start of the day (who will definitely work the first half of the day) and the end of the day (who will definitely work the end half of the day).
The Employee Deal Collective Agreement states that there are exceptional occasions on which the “assumed consent to leave” may be over-ridden.  This should be genuinely exceptional circumstances, out of the norm and discussed with the Union in advance of any decision, reflecting that the Collective Agreement is just that, an agreement. 

The flexi limits for members are that they accrue up to a maximum 4 days flexi credit or a maximum 3 day flexi deficit at the end of each 4 week accounting period. This section of this circular has been seen by UC senior management and has not been disputed. 

What about Work Force Manager?
The times that members have agreed to fix, either at the start or the end of the day, are what matter. WFM is just a planning tool and one of its limitations is that it will only accept details with both a start and end time. No one should be told that they have to stick precisely to the hours entered on Work Force Manager.
Staff should not be pressured over “non-adherence” and other parts of DWP Operations have begun to issue instructions to managers to end the non-adherence obsession. 

The DWP Flexible Working Hours Policy applies to everyone. Members are only committed to the start OR the finish time that they have fixed using the Team Planning Tool (TPT, or Cover Tool). All staff will have an Annex 2 form letting them know what they have fixed. 

A common sense approach will be taken by managers when members need to take emergency leave and they will not be required to find cover. Applications for full or half day's flexi will continue to be done as now through your team leader. This section of this circular has been agreed by UC senior managers. 

UC have implemented the new breaks policy. Breaks are accrued by all staff, including part time staff, at a rate of 5 minutes per hour worked, up to a maximum of thirty minutes in a day. It allows for all staff to organise their breaks in a flexible way – e.g. 2 x 15 minutes, 3 x 10 minutes. Members do not have to adhere to the times in GWFM and we would expect members to work together in their teams to ensure that not everyone goes on a break at the same time. This should ensure that team leader involvement can be minimal.  This already works very well across other telephony areas in Operations. 

This paragraph has also been agreed by UC Senior Managers.
There have been no changes agreed to any of what is detailed above. Any member facing resistance in exercising their rights in relation to the above should contact a TU Representative immediately so that the matter can be dealt with expeditiously & amicably where possible. 
Additional issues regarding the taking of breaks & lunches are currently being investigated by PCS reps locally.
If you find out that a certain rogue line manager is timing your toilet breaks, please contact your TU rep at once.

PCS people Welcome to our members' magazine
Click on the image once to download the latest issue
After speaking and listening to a large cross section of members we are very pleased to unveil the new-look magazine, PCS People.
The magazine will feature a lively mixture of news, features, competions and members' stories reflecting your interests, experiences and concerns.
PCS members receive PCS People at their home address. You can also download the magazine here each month after it is published.