In May PCS members in Garston Contact Centre in the DWP Liverpool Branch voted by a majority of five and a half to one in favour of strike action to fight the closure of the office.
95% of PCS members at Garston Contact Centre supported two 1 day strikes on 16 May and 23 June to fight the proposed closure of their office and the forced transfer of all staff to either Bootle Contact Centre or Birkenhead Child Maintence Group. On both strike days around 30 pickets including ordinary members made lively picket lines.
PCS members at Garston will now take 5 days strike action from Monday 13 October to Friday 17 October.
Members are angry because management say they need to close the office to save money but DWP management have not taken into account the needs of the staff. Garston, Bootle CC and Birkenhead CMG are not offices next door to one another. Most members will face difficult journeys and even management accept that a good number of staff are outside their contractual mobility for both offices.
Over 1,000 DWP jobs have been cut in Liverpool in the last decade and many members at Garston are only there because they had to move there when DWP shut the Liverpool Pensions and Liverpool Call Centre sites.
For some staff closing Garston would mean their second and in some cases third forced transfer due to cuts and office closures over the last ten years.
The DWP Group Executive Committee has fully opposed the closure and supported fully the members. So far negotiations supported by strike action have achieved several welcome concessions such as –
- Excess fares extended from 3 to 5 years.
- Alternative postings to Belle Vale office for all staff with mobility, health or caring problems.
- Agreement to recruit at Birkenhead CMG instead of compulsorily transferring Garston staff to Birkenhead CMG.
Despite these concessions the great majority of staff will still be compulsorily transferred to Bootle if Garston closes. Management have described this as a lift and drop of the work but our members at Garston say – you can’t lift and drop people and treat them like office furniture. GEC say this is a closure too far.
Reasonable union proposals rejected
PCS only takes industrial action as a last resort. After a series of further talks the DWP GEC this week escalated negotiations to a meeting with the Network Services Director Myrtle Lloyd. PCS again fully opposed the closure of Garston and put forward what we believe are very reasonable proposals for setting up a satellite contact centre nearer to Garston as an alternative to compulsory moves to Bootle if DWP insist on closing the Garston site.
Management refused to agree to set up a satellite mainly on grounds of cost. Yet management have already set up satellite contact centres in Skegness, Luton, Lancaster, Redruth, Boston and Gravesend where nobody wanted them.
Now when creating a satellite site would overcome the genuine concerns of staff at Garston suddenly there is no money. The GEC stressed strong disappointment at this response.
50% Strike pay
All PCS members will take part in a 1 day national strike on Wednesday 15 October as part of a TUC week of action for fair pay with millions of other public servants in Local Government, the NHS and Education.
The PCS National Disputes Committee has agreed to authorise 50% strike pay for all members that take part in the 5 day strike over the closure of Garston CC. Strike pay will be paid for 4 days – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but not the national strike day on Wednesday.
Garston’s fight is your fight
These 5 days of strike action by our members at Garston shows their fantastic commitment in their fight to keep their office open. It will mean a considerable loss of pay for them.
The closure of the Garston CC is part of the government and DWP cuts. The NEC and the GEC believe that the Garston members fight is a key part of the bigger fight against the cuts that affect every PCS member. The action they are taking is action on behalf of us all.
Bootle Taxes Branch extends its fullest solidarity to our comrades in the DWP. Every member who can is urged to help make sure that members at Garston fighting to keep their office open are not left out of pocket.
If you wish to make a donation to the hardship fund for those on strike, please either contact your local rep or send donations to – Mr A. Campbell. 67A Garston Old Road, Liverpool, L19 9AD. Make payments out to – PCS DWP Liverpool branch hardship fund.
Please also send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org