PCS DWP BOLTON AND BURY

 

NEWS 2021

13 August 2021 | Further Health and Safety Risk Assessment Update for DWP staff
To:  All members in DWP
Branch Secretaries, Additional Branch Contacts, Regional Secretaries & GEC (for info)
DWP/MB/087/21

Track and Trace
QR codes should still be used. Where QR codes can’t be used there should be a separate sheet to record for tracing reasons.

Facilities
There needs to be suitable and sufficient break out facilities for all staff to have their breaks safely.  There also needs to be sufficient toilets.  Management state that all toilets can be used and are no longer limited, but if they don’t have toilet lids there is a risk.  However, we have been assured work orders can be placed to get lids.  It is safer to keep number limitations if there is no lids and instruction around putting the lid down prior to flushing

Keeping Safe Training
Keeping safe Part 1 and 2 should be done by all staff who work with customers either face to face or over the phone.  It can take 4 weeks for L and D to get a course in place after new recruit’s inductions but we have been assured that L and D have a number of course taking place between now and the end of the year so there should be no issue regarding getting a course.  Instead of pat 2 being classroom based it is now delivered by teams. 

Hand Sanitiser
Hand sanitiser and hand washing should still be used.  However, PCS is disappointed that DWP refuse to put up signage for customers regarding the flammable nature of the hand sanitiser.

The Director General bulletin confirmed a careful and controlled approach and that the further reopening schedule would be based around the risk assessment process and the restacking of estate.  However, the incorrect version of the JCFRA was attached and this is causing further confusion.  Although some managers are trying to push ahead regardless.

Accident reporting
It’s important that if members are stress or feel that they are not covid safe they should be encouraged to complete accident reports via SOARS

Safety is Paramount
The GEC believes that safety should be paramount and some of the behaviours that we have seen does not indicate that this is true for all parts of the department.    If there are areas where this is not being done properly contact us at leeds@pcs.org.uk There is also a survey for members MB 85 which should be encouraged for them to complete.

There will be a health and safety reps zoom organised in the near future and you will be notified of that in due course.

Stay Safe!

Martin Cavanagh    Group President
Carol Revell             Group Safety Officer

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10 August 2021 | Health and Safety Risk Assessments for DWP staff
To:  All members in DWP
Branch Secretaries, Additional Branch Contacts, Regional Secretaries & GEC (for info)
DWP/MB/084/21

PCS have been in consultation with DWP to review the Covid risk assessments. These are the overarching departmental risk assessment and the Covid-19 checklist, which covers all buildings, and the JCFRA Covid risk assessment, for the Jobcentres.

Following strong representations by PCS we have agreed with the department that where there is no local health and safety rep available to work through the risk assessment, due to annual leave or if they are doing risk assessments elsewhere, local management will not go ahead without the local TUS. They will instead wait until the local H&S rep is available so they can consult properly. DWP have assured the union that there will be no "cliff edge" and that further reopening of offices will be a gradual, slow process.

We are already aware of some areas that are attempting to jump the gun, but no risk assessment should be progressed without proper consultation with local TU.

Further details
Once we have completed the consultation on the risk assessment process, PCS will issue further details and guidance to both branches and members.

The group will also arrange a meeting for health and safety reps as soon as possible following consultation.

In the meantime if there are any local issues regarding the risk assessments please escalate them to the GEC via pcs@leeds.org.uk

Carol Revell - Group Safety Officer

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6 August 2021
PCS responds to inaccurate media reports about civil servants and returning to the office

Throughout the unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic, PCS has always prioritised the safety of its members. Therefore, at the height of the pandemic which led to more than 150,000 deaths in the UK alone, we came up with 5 safety tests and negotiated homeworking for the majority of our members. This included making sure staff were supplied with the right equipment to do their jobs so they could work from home.

Alongside this, many civil servants whose jobs could not be done from home were attending workplaces and have been throughout the pandemic. Both sets of workers have been serving the public and keeping society functioning.

In terms of public service delivery, this has been an overwhelming success, with vital Universal Credit payments processed by DWP staff and the furlough scheme rolled out by workers in HMRC. Our members were rightly lauded by the government as heroes for their efforts.

The chancellor Rishi Sunak himself has credited civil servants for keeping the country going by working successfully from their “kitchens and living rooms” throughout the pandemic.

It is nothing short of a disgraceful and libellous slur for some journalists to depict hard-working and diligent civil servants as somehow “shirking” or “twiddling their thumbs” because they are currently working from home. It flies in the face of the facts and that government ministers have themselves publicly recognised the extraordinary efforts civil servants and other public sector workers have made during the pandemic.

PCS continues to have intensive and productive discussions with the Cabinet Office on future working arrangements.

We are pressing them to prevent any large-scale return of staff to offices until it is demonstrably safe to do so; and even then to not return to the pre-pandemic world – we want maximum choice and flexibility for workers going forward, including homeworking where desired. The pandemic has proven that this is eminently achievable while maintaining service delivery.

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6 August 2021
Brook Street agency staff to be offered contracts in DWP

Members initially employed via Brook Street recruitment agency have been offered the opportunity to transfer into the DWP on Direct Temporary Recruitment (DTR) contracts

The offer of DTR employment to members employed via Brook Street has been following months of pressure and campaigning by the DWP group executive committee and demonstrates the clear value of being a union member, however we still have more we want to achieve for these members.

DTR means that members are not employed on permanent contracts. The DWP terms state:

The new offer is a temporary, non-fair and open contract from 2 August 2021 until March 2022. During this time you will be a civil servant and an employee of DWP.

What does non fair and open mean? This refers to a job which has not been advertised publicly. It means that whilst you can apply for external roles both within DWP and wider civil service you will not be eligible to apply for any internal roles.

PCS believes that all of the members brought into the department via the Brook Street agency should be offered permanent recruitment via an “open and fair” recruitment exercise and should be supported by the department to maximise their chances of being successful.

The best way to strengthen that argument is to grow the strength of the union by asking your colleagues to join. With a strong union fighting on your behalf your interests at work will be best protected and extended. Ask any non-members you know to join today.

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5 August 2021
Read the latest edition of PCS Voice online now

The latest issue of PCS Voice is online now and is full of news and information for members in the DWP group.

From the editor
Welcome to the third edition of PCS Voice for 2021. This is the first edition from the newly-elected editorial board, and I would once again like to welcome Lorna, Joe and Nicky to the board. I look forward to working more with you this electoral year. Read more

President’s column
The UK is now in middle of yet another phase in this seemingly never-ending pandemic. For the past two weeks or so many of the previous safety restrictions have been lifted in England, and it is likely Scotland and Wales will follow suit over the coming days and weeks. Read more

Putting campaigning at the heart of organising
As an organising union, PCS regularly campaigns around the issues that affect our members. Read more

Jobcentre safety dispute
In the recent consultative ballot, members in jobcentres overwhelmingly rejected the DWP's decision to extend face-to-face services to customers and force members back into workplaces; 74% saying that they were prepared to take strike action. Read more

DWP pay 2021
Last month the employer imposed a paltry pay offer which PCS opposes. Our members in DWP deserve more for the work they have done throughout the pandemic. We have long called for a return to national pay bargaining, and we are moving closer to that by putting in sectoral pay claims. Read more

Hybrid working
With the easing of restrictions and the reopening of society, a return to the workplace is a matter of great concern for many of our members. Questions have been asked about the possibility of hybrid working. Read more

Tribute to John Collinson
DWP North East region were given sad news that their colleague and PCS representative John Collison had passed away on 4 June. Durham branch secretary Judith Leighton pays tribute to John on behalf of the region. Read more

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5 August 2021
Support with summer childcare

Finding childcare over the long summer holidays can be difficult, but as part of our summer focus on caring we look at what help is available.

According to a report by the Coram Family and Childcare charity, finding affordable childcare during the school summer holidays is one of the biggest problems for parents. The research finds that only 33% of English local authorities have enough holiday childcare available for parents who work full time, and on average prices have risen 5% since 2019.

The cost and shortage of places can be overwhelming, often meaning parents end up using most of their annual leave and sometimes have to take unpaid leave as well. Many couples report that they have to divide the holidays between them so they are unable to take time off together as a family.

Research by the TUC found that nearly a fifth of working mums had already used up all their annual leave to manage school closures during lockdowns and around one in eight said they would need to take unpaid leave to make up the shortfall.

Help with changing your work patterns
Many civil service departments have a range of policies for working parents, including flexible working. Parents of children aged 16 and under have the right to ask their employer for flexible working and that can include compressed hours, flexi-time, staggered hours, working from home, job-sharing and term-time only working. Employers are obliged to consider any application for flexible working and can only reject it if there’s a good business reason for doing so.

Speak to your PCS rep to find out what is available in your workplace and how you can put in a request.

Parental leave
Parents of a child under 18 can take up to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave (in total). You must have been employed for at least one year. Leave must be taken in blocks of one week (unless the child is disabled, when it can be taken in shorter blocks) and you can take no more than four weeks’ parental leave per year.

Speak to your PCS rep about how to request parental leave.

Help with costs
You can receive help with childcare costs for children aged 11 and under through the government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme.
Under the scheme you can get up to £500 every 3 months (up to £2,000 a year) for each of your children to help with the costs of childcare. This goes up to £1,000 every 3 months if a child is disabled (up to £4,000 a year).

You can find your rep's details by logging into PCS Digital.

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20 July 2021 | Dealing with extreme heat in DWP workplaces

The Met Office has issued its first ever Amber Extreme Heat Warning as large areas of the UK will continue to see hot conditions this week. Although there is no legal maximum for temperature, under health, safety and welfare legislation managers are responsible for ensuring that staff work in a comfortable working environment.

The DWP office environment guide states that the ideal working temperature for DWP sites is between 21 and 23 degrees. However, many parts of the UK have had temperatures in the 30s recently, so there is likely to be an issue in our offices.
Covid Safety measures

Unfortunately, many of the air conditioning systems in our offices cannot be used due to covid safety. We can only use air conditioning that extracts and exchanges the air not the type that recirculates the air as this could potentially spread covid especially if there are asymptomatic people in our offices. This also prevents the use of fans unless someone is in a room on their own. If you have windows that can be opened and create a through draft, then use them.

There are things the office manager can do to make it more comfortable for people to work in the office

Open as many doors and windows as possible, but never wedge open fire doors. It is important to have windows on both sides of the building open. This will encourage cross-flow ventilation. In windy conditions it is better to have all the windows open a little rather than a few open a lot

Ensure blinds are closed properly on the sunny side of the building to reduce solar gain. In summer the windows on the eastern side will have been exposed to the sun for some hours before staff arrive for work so unless there are reasons not to, e.g. specific security concerns, close these blinds before leaving for the day.

Allow staff frequent breaks to have drinks of cold water to combat the effects of dehydration

If practical, move staff into rooms less affected by solar gain

Staff public caller areas on a rota basis to allow the benefit of regular breaks in the open air

Consider sending home any officer particularly at risk, e.g. those who are not in the best of health, allowing full flexi credit for absences

If practical, increase home visiting and allow staff to write cases up at home

Consider relaxation of dress code standards

Consider home working

Allow regular breaks in the open air / Extend lunch breaks allowing full flexi credit for any extension. Staff who work standard hours should not be expected to make up lost time when extended breaks or early departures are allowed.

Raise an incident

In dealing with overheating problems it is essential that site managers keep all occupants and the trade union appointed safety rep fully informed.

When office temperatures rise above a threshold of thermal comfort and the problem affects more than one individual, is widespread or affects the whole building, site managers should contact the helpdesk (0870 606 0065) and raise an incident or contact the appointed service provider on non DWP estate sites.
Complete an accident corm

If you are too hot and it is uncomfortable to work complete an accident form at SOARS (sheassure.net). Please copy your local health and safety rep in so that they can identify the extent of the problem and negotiate with local managers the measures that can be put in place to help alleviate the problems.

In these high temperatures it is important that control measures are put in place to mitigate the situation. Heat stress can cause severe problems to the individual so should not be ignored. Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways, and some people are more susceptible to it than others.

Typical symptoms are:
• an inability to concentrate
• muscle cramps
• heat rash
• severe thirst - a late symptom of heat stress
• fainting
• heat exhaustion - fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin
• heat stroke - hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness. This is the most severe disorder and can result in death if not detected at an early stage.

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20 July 2021 | Read PCS People issue 2, 2021, online now
The latest issue of our members’ magazine PCS People is online now and is full of news about your union.

In the latest issue of PCS People, our principal focus is on the DVLA dispute, covered in our main article and in the general secretary’s column.

PCS President Fran Heathcote explains how our national conference went ahead despite the pandemic, we highlight the cost to members of the government’s latest pensions attack and consider the impact on unions of the divisive policing bill.

Find out more about conference by downloading and reading the special report.

There is also a Q&A about the impact on members of the Brexit protocols in Northern Ireland and we look at what workers can do if they are feeling drained and possibly suffering from burnout.

And our Me and My Job feature looks at tackling rough sleeping amid the Covid crisis.

And if you are feeling energetic Samuel is looking for PCS members to play some football with. See the letters page for more information.

Got a story for our next issue?

Why not share your experiences, achievements and comments on how the union has helped you?
To contribute, share ideas for articles, submit letters or comment on the magazine email editor@pcs.org.uk
We hope you enjoy this issue and this magazine inspires you to get involved in your union.

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19 July 2021 | Guidance for Public Sector Group members on the end of Covid restrictions in England
Read our health and safety guidance and advice in response to the changes introduced with effect from 19 July.

At a meeting with the Cabinet Office on 8 July our national executive committee made the following demands:

National law and guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must be followed
There must be no arbitrary targets or dates for staff to return to workplaces
Departments and agencies must consult the unions in advance of any plan for staff possibly returning to the workplace
Social distancing must remain in place; face-coverings should be used in communal areas and in any setting in which they are currently being used; existing screens should remain in place
Proper ventilation is vital in buildings and unions must be reassured on this before any return to the workplace
Vulnerable employees, including those not vaccinated, should continue working at home unless, on the balance of risk (impact on their mental wellbeing of working from home), it would be better for them to return to the workplace
Risk assessments, both individual and collective, should include travel to work and must be undertaken in advance of staff returning to the workplace

In multi-occupied buildings/sites, health and safety arrangements must be put into place to ensure that the unions are properly consulted at a building/site wide level as to all aspects of health and safety regarding a return to the workplace. This means PCS in those buildings/sites must work together as one body.

We recognise everyone wants to get back to some kind of normal and many members will be keen to be back in workplaces, but this must be done in a way that protects all staff. At a time when Covid-19 infection rates are on a steep upward trajectory, now is not the time to relax restrictions and caution must be applied. Ending restrictions does not make 19 July ‘freedom day’ for us but instead freedom for the virus to spread further, putting countless more lives at risk.

Public Sector Group position
We are awaiting proposals from the various departments that make up PSG about how or if things will be changing this week. However, we are aware that in several areas, managers have been very keen to inform staff that they have to return to the office from today. This is unacceptable given the lack of guidance from the Cabinet Office and BEIS.

We are aware of increased cases in workplaces and growing numbers having to self-isolate. This is not a situation where we need to reduce restrictions. Our demands are that the current Covid adaptions to workplaces, including social distancing, plastic screens, provision of cleaning equipment and increased cleaning regimen are maintained.

We know there are members in PSG who cannot work from home or who need to attend for wellbeing reasons. We already have large numbers of members in offices; they should not see the protections that they have had in place eroded as managers try to squeeze more people in.

Advice for members
Any proposed increase in numbers in any building/workplace or reduction in social distancing needs to be properly assessed for risks. Anyone asked to return to the office should have an individual risk assessment completed by their line manager and if the Covid adaptions are removed from offices, all staff in workplaces need to have revised and updated individual risk assessments.

In many workplaces there are already staff attending but an increase in numbers will bring significant risks. If you are concerned about coming into a workplace where numbers are increasing, whether you've been working from home or have already been attending the workplace, then you should request to see a copy of the building risk assessment and safe system of work and ask if it has been signed off by PCS. You have a right to see this before you agree to attend your workplace. If there is anything in the risk assessment that is of concern or you think is missing please notify your line manager immediately and contact your local PCS rep. You should also have an individual risk assessment that includes an assessment of the risk of your travel into work.

The health and safety of our members at work or working from home is of paramount importance to PCS. Please ensure you follow guidance and raise concerns with your local reps if there are problems.

Please remember these changes are for members in England only and members who work in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales should follow the guidelines in those countries.

Read the updated BEIS guidance for civil servants in England, and for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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19 July 2021 | Health and Safety for DWP staff
PCS has made clear to the Department that despite the government lifting many of the legally enforceable protections in England, and future dates in Scotland and Wales, the union expects our members’ safety to be the number one priority.
New guidance

Despite the new guidance in place in England from 19 July, it is clear to us all that we are still far from out of the woods in terms of infection rates and the risks to our members. We maintain our view that it is crucial that DWP still keep measures in place to protect our members and those who use our services.

We have demanded:
● Staff be allowed to still work from home where possible
● There is no mass return to the workplace until it is safe
● Face coverings should still be worn in our workplaces
● Social distancing should still apply
● We should restrict customers physically attending our offices
● Screens should remain in Jobcentres.
No changes in DWP - talks continue

The message from DWP rightly is that everyone should continue operating the safeguards we have in our workplaces, with no relaxations. Consultation continues on a new Covid risk assessment and what the changes in the wider societal position means for us, if anything. In the meantime carry on as you were before.

We will continue to monitor the infection rates and the situation within DWP sites.

Jobcentres
PCS remains opposed to the extension of face to face services in Jobcentres and are still in dispute.

Further negotiations with DWP are being held this week and the GEC will also meet on Wednesday and Thursday. Further information will be issued to members after that.

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19 July 2021
Burnout: spot the signs
If you’re feeling drained, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, less capable at work or unable to face the demands of your job and life, you could be experiencing signs of ‘burnout’. You’re not alone.

Burnout can happen to anyone at any time in their life, but the various impacts of the Covid crisis have exacerbated feelings of stress, anxiety, exhaustion and alienation for many people.

The Charity for Civil Servants – which offers practical, financial and emotional support to all current, former and retired civil servants – has launched a new online ‘Burnout Hub’ that brings together information on wellbeing support.

The new resource was compiled after research carried out by the charity in 2020 highlighted a need for information and guidance on the topic. It showed that the majority of us feel like the pandemic has negatively affected our general well-being.

The hub includes guides on stress, anxiety, resilience and mindfulness, webinars on avoiding and recognising burnout, and signposts to finding more support.

While many of these symptoms could happen for other reasons, common signs of burnout include:

Alienation from work-related activities: individuals experiencing burnout may view their jobs as increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may grow anxious about their working conditions and the people they work with. They may also emotionally distance themselves and begin to feel indifferent or numb about their work.

Physical symptoms: chronic stress may lead to physical symptoms, like headaches or stomach aches or intestinal issues.

Emotional exhaustion: burnout can cause people to feel drained, unable to cope, and tired. They often lack the energy to get their work done.

Reduced performance: burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work – or in the home, for example when someone is also caring for a loved one.

**** People with burnout don't always have depression, but some of the symptoms are the same.
Before self-diagnosing depression, you are advised to speak to your GP. ****

Resources
If you have any problems or questions about issues at work, please contact your local PCS rep.
Find contact details on PCS Digital.

Advice and resources from The Charity for Civil Servants:
Burnout Hub | DogBot chat | Home page.

Confidential support line: 0800 056 2424, Mon–Friday 9am–4pm.

‘Sometimes I get snappy and tearful’
“I’m in my 20s and this is my first civil service job. I’ve been working from home since lockdown began. My job is stressful anyway – as many people’s jobs are. There is huge ministerial interest in our team’s work.

When Covid kicked off there was a rush of important, urgent work that needed to be done. The civil service responded brilliantly. But I have noticed that ministers started to expect that as the norm. They think we should work like that all the time – you can, but you end up with loads of burned out staff breaking their necks to get things done.

A lot of the team has been struggling to cope. When you add working from home into the mix, I often feel very isolated. You meet on Teams and then when you hang up there’s just this enormous pile of work and competing priorities, and you’re sitting in your living room stressed out of your head.

Often there is just so much to do that I end up not doing any of it because I’m so overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. I’m not sure if that’s normal.

I’ve been finding it difficult to sleep because I’m thinking about the next day at work. Some days I get really upset because I feel like there’s not enough support. I get snappy with my partner and a bit tearful sometimes.

I’m just completely drained and dreading logging on the next day. I didn’t realise that’s how I was feeling until other people started to go off sick.

Maybe it sounds bad but what I’m trying to do now is just the bare minimum and not break my neck, because as soon as you help one person out everyone starts asking.

To deal with it all, initially I started drinking at weekends, then realised that’s not great. I have started going to the gym more again. I’m the sort of person who likes routines and Covid has not helped with that. I am actually looking forward to going back to the office.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I am feeling burned out when I’m so young. Others might look down on someone younger who says that; maybe they feel they have been through a lot more than me. But everyone can experience it.

One thing I despise is when employers focus too much on mindfulness. I do practice it; I meditate and things like that, but I don’t like it when they use it to pass on responsibility for our mental wellbeing. It’s such an easy cop out for the employer to paper over the cracks.”

‘Work has just burnt me up and changed my outlook on life’
“I work in the DVLA. All of this started with the pandemic. A lot of people went off because they were isolating or shielding. I was a part-time carer for my parents, but I still kept going in. I couldn’t see them. It annoyed me so much. Some of the calls we were taking were horrendous. We deal with a lot of overseas customers. I remember being inundated with calls from Italian people – we had their passports (as ID for exchanging driving licences) and they wanted to go back home and bury their relatives. We couldn’t locate the passports; we weren’t allowed to as we didn’t have the staff to look for them. The pressure was immense.

I just began dreading going into work. My job is to help people, and we can’t. It’s even worse now because we have got such a huge backlog. You can imagine how frustrated people are. I just know I’m going into work to get backlash. I used to love my job for the fast-paced environment and the fun. But it’s relentless now. So many people who have been in work through the pandemic are now mentally struggling. I spent this weekend in tears thinking about going into work on Monday, I didn’t want to socialise or see anyone – you don’t want to bring other people down.

I feel burned out. I can’t concentrate. I can’t sleep. I’ve had panic attacks. Because I caught Covid [during an outbreak at work] I’ve got terrible brain fog. I’m terrified of making mistakes. But I know my job well. I feel like my personality has changed from being upbeat with loads of energy, to lethargic and depressed. Work has just burnt me up and changed my outlook on life. I feel like a battery that’s been drained, and there’s no charge going to come back in it, ever. I did go on strike, I fully support the union in that. Management should have put us on rotation until this was over.”

The interviewees spoke to PCS anonymously.
This article is taken from PCS People issue 2, 2021.

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19 July 2021 | Pensions robbery: the real cost to members

The government is blatantly attempting to snatch away members’ rights to have their pension contributions reduced by at least 2% and see their benefits improved – but PCS is resisting and planning legal action.

PCS members are being robbed of around £1,000 each from their salaries as well as improvements to pensions benefits that they are owed.

Coming on top of another unnecessary and insulting pay freeze, members will be furious about this deliberate move by the government. In the coming months, we will be asking you to get involved in our campaign to right this wrong.

Why is this happening? Because there has been outrageous and unjustifiable government interference in the Civil Service Pension Scheme’s valuation and cost cap processes in recent years

The original outcome of the scheme’s 2018 valuation was declared more than two years ago. It confirmed PCS’s view that the future cost of the scheme had originally been exaggerated for political reasons. The cost of the scheme had fallen below the ‘floor’ of a cost control mechanism (called the ‘cost cap’) which meant there was money to spend on reducing employee contributions and improving pension benefits.

This produced recommendations that members’ contributions should be reduced by at least 2%, and that there should be improvements in benefits. Since then, the government has behaved outrageously:

Outrageous act 1: Avoiding the valuation
The government suspended the valuation process that was carried out in 2018 and should have seen your contributions reduce from April 2019. It used uncertainty around a legal case it lost – a judgment of unlawful age discrimination in the way its 2015 public sector pension changes were introduced (the McCloud case) – as an excuse for holding back those benefits from scheme members until a solution was worked out.

Outrageous act 2: Trying to make the victims pay
When they restarted the valuation, the government insisted the full costs of the discrimination remedy for the McCloud case would be included in a new revised valuation. This would mean members paying the full cost of their unlawful actions. PCS believes the way they want to revise the valuation will mean there is no longer a ‘cost cap’ breach, effectively cancelling the cut to the employee contribution they owe to members.

The Treasury is now planning long-term proposals that would make it harder for future valuations of the scheme to trigger changes to member contributions and benefits, in a move PCS has called “cynical” and a “betrayal”. These involve changing the cost cap mechanism in ways that tear up the original basis of the cap, making it likely that there will never be a breach in future.

Outrageous act 3: Adding insult to injury
Compounding this already diabolical approach towards scheme members, the government is proposing that the full cost of the remedy will be loaded into the current four-year valuation period, rather than being spread over a longer time. This is completely unjustified, given that most members will not decide on their portion of remedy cost until they approach retirement.
Union actions: Building our case

Along with other unions we have protested vigorously at this “make the victims pay” approach.

While work is now being done to avoid the “no breach” outcome, our legal case for judicial review to strike out the remedy costs from the valuation entirely is being prepared in final form.

PCS is working closely with other unions and will be pressing for a hearing of our case in the summer.

How much of your pension has been stolen up to April 2021?

Annual salary Stolen contributions
£15,000 £600
£25,000 £1,000
£35,000 £1,400
£45,000 £1,800

Get involved
Your branch will be asked to formulate an organising and campaigning plan, including an all-members meeting around the issues of pay and pensions – ask your local reps how you can get involved where you work.

Look out for PCS region/nation briefings on pensions and how to campaign around the issue.

If you are not already a rep, why not get involved in the union? Speak to your rep about becoming a PCS Advocate or email organising@pcs.org.uk

Recruit a friend or colleague to PCS – together we are stronger. Look at our why join page.

Read our pensions campaign page.

This article is taken from PCS People issue 2, 2021.

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15 July 2021 | What's on? 19 July - 25 July

PCS courses and events are now being listed on PCS Digital.

Anyone can view these events but to apply you'll need to log in to PCS Digital. If you have not yet registered for PCS Digital, please do so.

It's been another busy week of campaigning on members' issues.

Dispute resolution talks over jobcentres
Formal dispute resolution consultation began between PCS and members of the DWP executive team yesterday. We were clear that members feel even less safe about face to face working now than they did at the time of the ballot as a result of the rapid rise in infections due to the Delta variant of the corona virus.

Shapps should back a deal as DVLA dispute continues
As our DVLA campaign for Covid safety is continuing this week with staff in the casework and enforcement group out tomorrow and Friday, members explain why they continue their action.

Response to the permanent secretary’s plans for returning to office working in DWP
We have told DWP that we believe the government’s decision to remove, at this stage, the legal safeguards that have protected society from Covid-19 is dangerous and reckless. PCS has been in ongoing talks with the DWP about how they respond to the government’s strategy.

There are a number of courses coming up next week.

Neurodiversity in the Workplace stage 2 - All regions
20 - 21 July: 9:30am - 4pm

If you enjoyed the ‘Stage 1’, and want to expand your skills and knowledge as a PCS Neurodiversity Champion, register for this course in your region. These two days cover some more detailed ‘case studies’; discuss the position of neuro-atypical workers in the workplace and wider society in the context of austerity; and will give you a grounding in employment and welfare rights for neuro-divergent members. This course will focus on the importance of involving neuro-divergent members in campaigning for a fair workplace.

PCS Northern regional committee AGM
20 July: 12:30pm -2pm

PCS branches in Northern Region can send one voting delegate, and observers including advocates and ARMs members are welcome. Nominations for regional elections must be received by 29 June.

Get in touch
Check out our events page, PCS Digital, or contact your local rep or regional office to find out what’s going on this week and in the coming weeks.

Let us know what your group or branch is planning so we can publicise it in our weekly round-up. Email web@pcs.org.uk

Stay informed by updating your details securely online by registering for PCS Digital or by contacting membership@pcs.org.uk.

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9 July 2021 | Latest update on DWP pay talks

Department for Work & Pensions Group DWP/MB/077/21
To: Branch Secretaries, Additional Branch Contacts, Regional Secretaries and GEC. Please copy this to All Members

As reported in DWP/MB/071/21, PCS met with DWP management to make our case for them looking at sectoral pay. We explained that the union’s aim has always been to see a return to national pay bargaining across the whole of the Civil Service, and that remains our ultimate aim. However, a step towards that would be for employers within a sector to look at aligning their rates of pay, so that people within the same grade are not paid wildly different rates of pay based on which bit of a sector they work in. We pointed out that certain organisations that come under the DWP umbrella, such as HSE, generally pay more than DWP right across the grades. We do not believe that this is justifiable, particularly as DWP is effectively in control of the purse strings throughout the whole sector.

This meeting was out-with the normal pay negotiations, and DWP made it clear that, such were the limitations of this year’s pay remit, any consideration of a sector wide approach was likely to be for future consideration. They did however, take away our proposition and committed to coming back to us shortly.

2021 Pay
DWP have now participated in a short series of formal pay negotiation meetings with all the unions, but the remit is extremely limited. There is no consolidated money available for the vast majority of members, with only the lowest paid (those earning below £24,000) being offered £250 per year, or a portion of, and even that is something being done across the Civil Service, so is not the subject of any meaningful consultation.

The talks have mainly centred around how DWP split the one off non-consolidated bonus payment. PCS have argued for this money to be split evenly, and for every last penny in the pot to be utilised.

What next?
Obviously, we have made it clear that what is on offer through the Treasury Pay Remit, is totally unacceptable and that the Government imposing a pay freeze on our members after the way that you have responded to the pandemic, and the huge pressures this put on the Department, is a kick in the teeth, that does nothing to properly reward you for your efforts throughout the most difficult of periods.

We are expecting DWP to make their final offer in the next few days. As soon as we have a formal offer that can be shared with you we will be consulting branches and members about our next steps.

Ian Bartholomew, Group Secretary
Martin Cavanagh, Group President

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21st June 2021 | Offer of Direct DWP Employment for Brook Street Staff, Extension of FTA contracts
To: All Members | DWP/MB/073/21

Campaigning gets results
PCS has made continuing demands to DWP that all staff recruited on Fixed Term Appointments (FTA) are made permanent and that those recruited on Direct Temporary Recruitment (DTR) are given opportunities to be recruited to DWP by fair and open competition. We have also campaigned vigorously for Brook Street Agency workers in the DWP to be brought into direct employment thereby significantly improving the employment rights of this group of workers.

The efforts of negotiators have ensured that there will be extensions of the contracts for FTA and DTR staff and the excellent result of the offer of direct DWP employment on DTR contracts for the Brook Street staff.

Detail of changes
DWP have admitted that there is a continuing need for temporary resource to support critical delivery of Universal Credit and Service Excellence. They have secured approval from Capacity Board and the Minister to extend contracts for temporary AOs and also LDO colleagues.

Recent communications have stated:
For AOs recruited as Direct Temporary Recruitment (DTR), Fair and Open Fixed Term Appointments (FTA) and Brook Street agency workers.

• DTR and FTA Employees will receive notification from DWP that their current contract will be extended to 18 March 2022. Future new DTR candidates will all receive an end date of 18 March 2021 regardless of their start date.

• Brook Street workers will be offered the opportunity to accept a DWP non fair and open contract commencing 2 August 2021 and ending 18 March 2022. Those workers who do not accept the offer will remain working in DWP on their current Brook Street contract until the end date, 30 September 2021

• FTA Learning Development Officer (LDO) colleagues will be extended to the end of March 2022.

• There will also be a further FTA EO exercise to address attrition and the original shortfall of our 300 FTA ambition from the exercise last year.

• DWP will draw down from the HEO reserve list to fill gaps in management roles. This will not have any immediate impact on those who have recently been successful in the internal TDA EOI to HEO exercise.

PCS Response
PCS welcomes these positive developments. However we feel there is a strong case for all those FTAs recruited by fair and open competition to be made permanent as we do not believe that the post Covid economic crisis will be resolved any time soon. We will continue to campaign for permanent contracts for all FTAs.

We believe that if the Department, as instructed by the Treasury, will not recruit permanent staff then all new staff should be recruited on FTA contracts and not DTR contracts so that they have the best possible opportunity to be made permanent in the future.

PCS will also continue to argue that the DWP should be an exemplar employer and never again use agency workers, creating a two tier workforce with many workers on vastly inferior terms and conditions.

Martin Cavanagh - Group President
Steve Swainston - Group Assistant Secretary
Mark Page - Full Time Officer

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Covid office closure highlights concerns over jobcentres reopening

20 May 2021

PCS members have raised serious concerns about DWP’s insistence on full reopening of jobcentres after 17 Covid cases were confirmed at the Wigan office. The site was closed for a deep clean but had reopened on Monday (17 May). 

But staff are still extremely concerned about the outbreak and the increasing worries of a third wave of Coronavirus following reports of the so-called Indian variant of the virus being present in the North West.  Following the 10-day circuit breaker the jobcentre was meant to open to vulnerable customers only, with a skeleton staff,  but local reps say at least 5 non vulnerable JSA claimants attended the office on Monday for face to face interviews.  

PCS is conducting a group wide consultative ballot on the imposed changes by DWP in having a full reopening of job centres despite the vaccine not being fully rolled out and new Covid variants causing alarm in communities around the UK.  

The ballot will close on 2 June.  
PCS industrial officer Mark Page said: “Jobcentres should not be fully reopening for staff and claimants as to do so would risk further infections, like what we have seen in Wigan.  The fact that this outbreak occurred when the jobcentres were not fully reopened and Covid safety measures are supposedly in place, shows the high risks DWP are taking with members and claimants health and safety.  DWP needs to pause the reopening and engage in constructive discussions with the union to resolve the issues at Wigan and elsewhere across the jobcentre estate.” 

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No need for return to offices

18 May 2021

More staff and customers are being asked to return to jobcentres for face to face interviews despite working successfully from home for a year. PCS has opposed DWP’s plans to extend services in jobcentres as we do not believe it is safe due to Covid or that the necessary risk assessments and safety measures have been put in place.

Many jobcentre staff have been successfully working from home for a year now and PCS members have been telling us that they are not convinced by DWP’s arguments that a return to offices, and face to face interviews, is necessary now or safe.

Last autumn after a PCS campaign, DWP signed up to “empowering” work coaches, enabling them to decide how best to progress their own caseload and decide who to meet for face to face appointments. However, many PCS members who are work coaches are telling us that their line managers are putting pressure on them to return to the office and to change phone appointments to face to face appointments.

An email sent to staff by management at one jobcentre has requested that “any claimants that are currently booked as a phone but are in a face to face slot, can they be rebooked for a face to face appointment”.

A work coach in Wales told us: “We have been told that all work coaches have to be in the office 60% of their time, regardless of whether they have face to face meetings or not. 60% in the office won’t be Covid safe.”

Another member said: “I have not been in my jobcentre office for over a year. My manager wants me back in the office 2 out of my 3 days per week. I do not deal with 18-24 year olds, the self-employed or Job Seeker’s Allowance at present. I have successfully completed new claims over the telephone.”

Members are also considering how customers will feel about being asked to attend appointments in person. One member said: “I personally don't feel that staff and customers should be forced to attend the office until the pandemic is fully under control, and don't feel that I could justify the decision to my customers.”

PCS is running a consultative ballot of members working in jobcentres, which closes on 21 May.

Need help at work? Find your rep’s details on PCS Digital.

Not yet a member? Join online now.

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DWP safety ballot extended to 2 June
19 May 2021

The DWP has imposed a further increase to the number of staff required to attend jobcentres

Since 12 April, DWP has been asking considerably more staff to return to jobcentres to carry out face to face interviews with customers.  On 17 May this increased again, despite PCS’s opposition on safety grounds.

DWP claimed that the increase in face to face activity would be slow, steady and safe, but since then has imposed these instructions for more staff to go into work and carry out face to face interviews with customers.

There is growing anger and fear amongst members because of the DWP’s apparent lack of concern for their safety.

The consultative ballot over safety was due to close this Friday 21 but PCS has decided to extend the deadline to Tuesday 2 June to enable more members to vote.

How to vote

The ballot is conducted by electronic voting. Members will have received an e-mail to their personal e-mail address from pcs@cesvotes.com.

If you haven’t had the email, you can apply for a replacement by e-mailing balloting@pcs.org.uk. The e-mail must contain your membership or national insurance number and your personal e-mail address. Please check your spam/junk e-mail before requesting a replacement.

The cut-off date for requesting replacement ballot notices is 12 noon on Wednesday 26 May.
New members who join by no later than 12 noon on Monday 24 May will be included in the ballot.

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