Sunday, 14 June 2015

March Against Austerity!

On Saturday 20th June a National Demonstration will be taking place in London demanding amongst other things:
  • An end to cuts and Austerity
  • Reversal of Privatisation
  • A well-funded National Heath Service
  • Affordable homes for all.
Our region encourages all members to march to illustrate the level of support among working-class people for policies that serve our interests as opposed to the interests of the rich and powerful represented by this government.

The union in the North-West is putting on free coach travel to and from the demonstration on the day with pick-up points in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston. 

Please contact your branch secretary as listed on this site or for more information or to book transport.

For more information on the demo go to the facebook page.

Support the North West Contact Centre Campaign!

Support Our Campaign 

PCS will call upon management to seriously consider these issues, in the hope CCS management begin to realise staff are their key assets, not their key problem.

PCS Reps from the North West Contact Centres met recently with PCS NW Committee members to discuss the current continuing issues impacting members in our Contact Centres.

The meeting established patterns and trends within Contact Centres in the North West. The perception of PCS is that the majority of these issues emanate from national decisions by the Contact Centre Senior Management Team and Network Management.

It is the intention of the Regional Committee to campaign around the following demands. Your support is vital if we are to stop the continuing erosion of working conditions in Contact Centres:
  1. End to micro-management; allow line managers to manage 
  2. Fair performance management 
  3. Annual leave levels to be 25% with in-work leave/network days allowed 
  4. Full access to flexible working 
  5. Fair and transparent application of DWP policies (MA, people performance, SPL/sick leave) 
  6. Permanent jobs for FTAs 
  7. Job security for AA grade staff.
Reps spoke of members’ anger at recent decisions relating to everything from Attendance Management, and Performance Management, to Annual leave issues and the withdrawal of team meetings, 1-2-1s and CSL courses, amongst other things.

The overarching theme and belief is that there is currently a lack of clear governance and transparency in respect of the decisions made by senior management. The requirement of local managers to enforce these decisions has damaged employee relations at local levels.

PCS noted with regret the regressive approach of CCS management, and the lack of clarity and transparency of decisions made by the current regime. PCS noted the progress made following the CCS-PCS dispute settlement, in which employee relations normalised and real progressive changes made, in what CCS delivers and how. The emerging belief amongst all reps was that senior managers have, or are in the process of, returning to the tried and failed methods of CCD.

As a result, PCS reps recognised key areas which members feel strongly about, and which should form the basis for talks with management, and GEC members.

Annual Leave 

 Reps noted recent caps on annual leave, and the forecasted reduction of leave. In some circumstances this is projected as low as 12%-for some service lines. Reps also felt that members in CCS were wilfully being declined access, or even consideration of utilising flexi-time, in the manner intended. This is particular acute in respect of ‘early finishes’ or in-day leave. Reps agreed a real substantive agreement was necessary, to end confusion and the lack of transparency with this provision. 

Performance Management 

PCS noted the return of micro management of individuals, albeit, ironically alongside the withdrawal of 1-2-1s.

PCS discussed the sub-prime and discriminatory nature of CCS’ Performance framework. Even following substantive changes to this framework, members are left with a reductionist approach to performance-which still continues to discriminate against those who maybe part time staff, disabled, carers. This list is not exhaustive.

Additionally, CCS has begun to incorporate strict targets into Key Work Objectives. PCS doubt these would satisfy DWP’s SMART criteria. It remains to be seen how hard Part Time staff or disabled people will have to work to reach their CRCT target, if they can reach it at all

Working Pattern requests 

Members have been subjected to arbitrary decision making when requesting a change in working pattern, or consideration of partial retirement.

No substantive investigation takes place following a request. No Management Information is presented-to support the belief the PCA cannot support it. No attempts by management are made to negotiate, with a view to an acceptable settlement for both DWP and the individual.

The Decline of Governance 

Examples are numerous, but PCS noted the withdrawal of team meetings and 1-2-1s, the cancelling of CSL courses, the withdrawal of TDA-exposing team leaders to more work and pressure, and limiting the support for staff.

In some cases these reactions have proven unnecessary, with some meetings reinstated later in the same week-in a confused and hurried manner.

More widely, PCS are not generally consulted when appropriate, at the relevant level. Decision making is often poor and seldom properly explained or communicated to staff.

Managers reference the position of the PCA, without providing figures, or context. In some circumstances staff are asked to inform their manager should they wish to invoke their contractual right to a one hour lunch. Other members are tarred with ‘not working their shift’ when they do so. 

Members and reps continue to report problems with the management of Attendance Management, Special Leave requests and Flexi Credits for appointments.

The NW Committee and reps resolved that PCS must attempt-again-to remedy these issues for members. PCS note the operational pressure on DWP; however these problems are not the making of PCS members, and management have had over six years now to conclude this wasn’t working.

End of Year Appraisals

Your union can represent you in these cases too.

The guidance is long and involved so it is best to talk to your rep about your situation.

You should always raise a grievance if your box marking comes as a surprise. If the marking has changed since your mid-year review you should have been made aware that things were likely to change.

Management are raising the stakes with appraisal saying that they don’t expect people to get a “Must Improve” two years running. We are concerned that there will be more use of capability procedures to try and get rid of those of us getting Must Improve markings. Make sure you raise a grievance against these markings with PCS help.

In many cases there is a good chance you will win.

The PCS regional committee is concerned that the whole appraisal process is flawed and discriminatory. For example we learnt last year in GMCC District that full timers, non-disabled people, those from the majority ethnic group and women who are in a majority in the workforce, were all more likely to get an Exceeded box marking and with the exception of non-disabled staff, were less likely to get a Must Improve. The higher the grade, the more likely staff were, to get an Exceeded and the less likely they were to get a Must Improve.

Exceeded markings were much more common for those aged 16-24 and much less common for those over 60 and staff under 30 and over 60 were more likely to get must improves. Similar patterns are to be found in other parts of the Department.

If we are to change the system we must all challenge it by raising grievances about anything that appears to be unfair.

Attendance Management - Know Your Rights!

PCS can represent you at any stage of the DWP Attendance Management sickness absence procedures. If you are called to a meeting always talk to your rep and take them with you. 

Information held on you 

We know that senior managers are involving themselves in decisions on attendance management cases. This is not always made clear by line managers.

The easiest way to find out what information is being used in your case is to submit a Subject Access request under the Data Protection Act. To do this send an email to saying you are applying for your records under the Data Protection Act (1998). Ask the DWP to send you, within 40 days, all information held on paper or electronically about you.

If you want you can name the managers you think hold information about you and you can request specific information. For example you may want to ask for all advice provided by a more senior manager to your line manager in relation to attendance management.

 Make Your Own Decisions 

As a line manager it is your responsibility and your right to make any decisions relating to attendance management for staff on your team. When PCS discusses the involvement of more senior managers we are told that they are only involved to ensure consistency and provide advice.

However, in practice we know there is pressure on line managers to accept the advice as an instruction. We are asking all PCS members who are line managers to stand up to this pressure. If you have various pieces of advice it is your responsibility to give them appropriate weight. For example it would be reasonable to give more weight to medical evidence from the OHS and a person’s own GP, than advice from someone who is not medically trained and who has never met the person concerned.

You cannot be disciplined for using your discretion. Please report any situations where you are being told not to use discretion to your union rep.

Disabled Employees Trigger Points 

 If you have a disability that affects your attendance you should have an attendance management trigger point which is suitable for you. If you are having difficulties with the attendance management procedures and you think you may reach the usual 8-day trigger point (or the equivalent if you are part time) or you think you may reach four periods of absence, tell your manager you want to be considered for a raised trigger point.

You do not have to prove you are disabled. Your manager should make a decision based on the balance of probability. The DWP guidance tells managers that they should ideally make decisions on DETPs themselves without getting advice from HR or the OHS.