News : Strike Action in Fight Over Centre's Future
Oct 21, 2014 -- Union members at a Garston contact centre held a five-day strike last week over the proposed closure of the centre.
Members of the Public Services Union (PCS) who work at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) call centre in Garston, were striking over plans to move the workforce of more than 150 staff to centres in Bootle and Belle Vale.
Rob Morton, lead trade union (TU) representative for Garston contact centre PCS, said: "A lot of people from this area work here. Some have worked here for 39 years.
"These people don’t know what’s going to happen if we have to move. For the people that live here, the locality of their work is very important."
"The move of the workforce will affect things like child care and health issues. There are people whose whole day revolves around their job. Once this place goes, their lives are completely banjaxed."
Andy Campbell, Branch Treasurer, said: "It’s just sad the way they treat people. Most of the workers are living on basic minimum wage as it is, but now they might have to face more financial loss to cover things like child care."
The DWP announced the closure of the centre on January 28 this year as a result of funding cuts.
If the move goes ahead, it will take place in March next year.
The workers have what is called a Workforce Management Package that states they cannot be involuntarily moved over an hour away from where they live.
It also takes into account things such as child care, health conditions and work/life balance.
"We’d like to keep the site open but if we can’t do that we’d at least like our contractual rights to be recognised," said Mr Morton.
Local businesses are also expected to be affected by the centre’s closure.
Mr Morton pointed out: "Staff use the sandwich shop across the road and go to the nearby pub to have a drink after work. Most of us go to the local garage to get our MOTs done, too. They’ll experience a big loss of custom if we move."
The workers said that the picket line was the most supportive they have ever had with 49 PCS members coming down to show their support.
Dave Owens, Assistant Branch Secretary, said: "National management has described the closure as a disaster. They’ve also admitted, had they consulted with the union properly, they’d never have closed the centre in the first place. Some people will find closer jobs and then the DWP will lose experienced staff."
Mr Morton added: "If we don’t get them to keep this centre we hope they set up alternative sites nearby. There’s actually a facility in the centre of Liverpool we could use that is kitted out as a call centre. It’s just 15 minutes away from here whereas it’s a good 35 minutes to Bootle itself.
"We’ve proposed reasonable alternatives but they have refused, so we have got to fight and fight hard we will."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is the largest government department in the United Kingdom, and is responsible for welfare and pension policy.
Published: Thursday, October 23, 2014