Around 800 workers in Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) job centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Merseyside, Sunderland, and Washington will be balloted for action over health and safety concerns.
We’re also empowering members to take immediate action to refuse unsafe work using Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act, issuing members with pro forma letters they can use with their bosses. The ballot will likely begin on or around Tuesday 27 October, which will set up the possibility of industrial action in early November.
Union pressure and the threat of a national ballot already secured significant concessions from management over the issue of job centre opening hours and seeing claimants face to face. One of those concessions was that a lot of the decision making about whether to see a claimant in person was devolved down to job coaches themselves – i.e., the individual worker.
The areas where workers have pushed for the ballot are the ones where local management are putting workers under particular pressure to increase the number of claimants they’re seeing face to face. In the context of rising infection rates, that’s simply not safe.
Our driving instructor members are also continuing to discuss the possibility of balloting. Some workers are still hopeful that the government will act to protect them; we need to empower workers to take action to protect themselves.
• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, writing here in a personal capacity.