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Jobcentre workers consider strike over unsafe return

STAFF at jobcentres across Britain are considering industrial action over being forced to return to their Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) workplaces before conditions are safe from Covid-19.

The Civil Service workers begin voting on whether or not to strike on Wednesday on a ballot by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS).

PCS said that with the easing of lockdown restrictions management is insisting staff resume face-to-face interviews at jobcentres.

During the lockdown, they have been working from home, conducting interviews by phone.

In a statement, PCS said: “Since April 12, DWP has been asking considerably more staff to return to jobcentres to carry out face-to-face interviews with customers.

“This is despite staff working from home successfully for up to a year, carrying out these interviews by phone.

“We believe that coronavirus still poses a threat to safety and that to extend services in jobcentres now is unsafe and places staff, their families and customers at risk.”

The union said that face-to-face interviews should be limited to “vulnerable” clients, and that otherwise they should not be re-started “until the vaccine programme is complete and low rates of infection have been sustained for a significant period.”

“We are therefore balloting PCS members working in jobcentres to ask if they would be prepared to take industrial action over DWP’s decision,” the union said.

The ballot is consultative, and a formal ballot will follow later if staff are in favour of action. It runs from May 5 to 21.

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