Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Welcome



03 July 2020 | DWP briefing.Department for Work & Pensions Group
Safety being compromised with rush to open Jobcentres to the public


To: Branch Secretaries, Additional Branch Contacts, Regional Secretaries & GEC
DWP/BB/056/20

Management with their drive to rush through the re-opening of Jobcentres to the public are liable to be breaching health and safety legislation. The Government guidance on what employers must do to protect the safety of the workforce are very clear that kit should be provided to maximise the numbers of staff who can work from the safety of their home in the first instance. Not only is there a reluctance to do this management want to increase the risk in Jobcentres of the spread of the virus and make the public leave the safety of their homes to travel to the Jobcentre to receive services that our members can provide to a better and safer standard remotely through phone and digital channels. 

The guidance is very clear about the requirement for employers to consult the unions on the risk assessments in a meaningful way and this goes on to cite some of the penalties when employers are found to be breaching H&S legislation up to and including 2-years imprisonment. 

DWP management have failed to follow health and safety guidance to consult in good time on the risk assessment and to give us an opportunity to express our views and to take account of any responses.

▪︎ No agreed Risk assessment
Guidance and a JCFRA has appeared on the intranet. None of these have been agreed with PCS. In fact there is a meeting next Monday to try to sort this out. We have had a number of meetings with management and JP Marks, Debbie Alder and Margarita Morrison have all assured us that Jobcentres will not open until it is safe to do so.

When PCS finally received a copy of the JCFRA management had already set in train their plans to issue the risk assessment and all the other guidance out to the business. There was absolutely no interest in even taking on board the extensive union comments on the risk assessment process to protect the lives and the safety of our members and all the staff working in Jobcentres. The response we have received to our extensive comments fails to recognise the duty of care DWP has to protect the health, safety and welfare of all staff and everyone within our workplaces. 

In fact undue pressure is being put on site reps to sign off an inadequate risk assessment which is designed to only pay lip service to our health safety rather than properly discuss all the issues. No documents that are published on the intranet or being issued in sites have had the serious issues that PCS has raised incorporated, let alone agreed
Management have unilaterally rushed out their poor material with undue haste and put pressure on PCS reps to agree plans that would put our members in serious and imminent danger. PCS would have preferred to have had the opportunity to properly discuss the process and plans and allow for union comments and suggested improvements to be incorporated. We have no option but to publish the issues we have raised with management to reps as all of these issues need to be properly discussed at site level 

The stage managed opening of Marylebone was done without an agreed national generic JCFRA and without a locally agreed JCFRA. Some of the PPE that they said was required was not on site but they still insisted on opening as they had arranged a visit of the minister. Clearly media coverage for Tories is more important than the health safety and wellbeing of our members and also the public.

It is important that all reps challenge any attempt to open the jobcentres prior to all the safety aspects being put in place.

As well as wanting meaningful consultation on the JCFRA and supporting documents we have asked for the risk assessment of the PPE that they are planning to use. In particular we want the specifications and risk assessment for the screens. We have grave concerns about the safety of the screens given that 4 of these glass screens have already shattered whilst being installed making a mockery of management’s claim that the screens are shatter proof.

We asked for risk assessment on the visors and masks that they planned to use and we have already had sight of inadequate fashion masks that have been given to guards.
This does not instil confidence that the safety of our members is being taken seriously.

▪︎ Advice to branches
As this is a safety issue reps should be given an opportunity to speak to their site members on this. It's important that the strength of feeling of all our members is taken into account. Meetings can be organised electronically or if you have a safe place (like the fire muster point) where you can meet with members whilst maintaining the 2 metre social distancing this could be done.

All H&S reps should make clear that; we are opposed to unsafe opening of jobcentres to the public, we are worried about the safety of the screens that are being installed badly and with no regard to health and safety control measures or proper discussion about what is required. The potential for the screens to be an additional hazard and a risk to staff is huge. A proper cleaning regime needs to be put in place that ensures regular cleaning of equipment after every user. Social distancing of 2 metres should be deployed at all times, in line with PCS' position. Reps should continue to use the 5 tests agreed by PCS nationally to ensure safety in our offices and to engage with members.

Please escalate any issues re this to group office via leeds@pcs.org.uk.

Carol Revell - Group Safety Officer / Katrine Williams - Group Vice President.

17 Jun 2020 | PCS submits 10% pay claim to DWP

The group executive committee has submitted our pay claim for 2020 to DWP management. The claim repeats the national pay claim for a consolidated 10% pay increase for all members that was submitted to the Cabinet Office earlier this year.

In addition to the headline claim of 10%, PCS has also made clear to DWP that 2020 pay talks must be used to address some of the DWP-specific issues that have arisen in recent years. These include:

  • A fair deal for opted out members whose pay was held down by DWP in every year of the Employee Deal
  • Ending the situation that opted out AOs are paid less than some AA members
  • Ensuring that members not on DWP terms and conditions receive a fair pay award
  • Ensuring the pay offer properly rewards members in the Special Location Pay Zones who lost out under Employee Deal
  • Putting in place a system to allow all members who did not reach the Maximum under Employee deal to be able to do so.
  • Addressing any pay overlaps and leapfrogging in the SEO and above grades.
Members will be only too well aware how their pay has been held down over the last 10 years and it is time for a real pay increase to reflect that. While some members benefitted from Employee Deal, many did not. DWP pay still lags behind pay in many other government departments, never mind comparable jobs in the private sector.

We deserve a reward for our work during Covid 19
In addition this year, members in DWP have responded fantastically to the huge challenges that DWP faced with the surge in new claims that came with the onset of the Covid 19 crisis. Ministers have described the achievements of DWP staff as incredible and "heroic" so now is the time for that praise to be turned into money. DWP staff have been classed as critical workers having to work through the Covid 19 crisis to deliver payments to our fellow citizens. This critical work during a period of national crisis deserves a proper pay rise.


However at the same time the Treasury has issued its 2020 pay remit guidance to departments. This guidance limits pay increases in the civil service to between 1.5% and 2.5% overall. This obviously falls way short of our claim for 10% and is simply not acceptable.

Given the contribution we have made during the Covid 19 crisis it is, in fact, little short of insulting. Such a small amount of money will also make it extremely difficult to address the specific issues listed above.

We are currently in pay negotiations with DWP and will of course be seeking to achieve the best offer we can for members. A final offer is expected soon.

Click here.

The Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) is one of the largest and most influential Trade Unions in the UK, with around 270,000 members. It is a very important time to be a Union member and together we are so much stronger, so please  join PCS online today. 

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