Benefits Service Hit By Strike Action

20 July 2015, 08:14 | Updated: 20 July 2015, 08:15

The Department of Work and Pensions has pledged to ensure a smooth running of its benefits service during strike action this week.

PCS Union members at DWP sites in Bolton and Glasgow are expected to go on strike today and tomorrow over the management of the introduction of universal credit, followed by four weeks of action short of strikes.

The DWP said "only a small minority'' of universal credit workers will go on strike, and that "plans are in place to ensure the smooth running of the service and to prioritise payments and priority tasks like housing benefit to ensure a good service to claimants is maintained''.

A DWP spokesman said: "Universal credit is already transforming lives with people moving into work faster and staying in work longer

"Only a small minority of universal credit workers will be taking part in strike action. The fact is staff are already administering universal credit in almost 50% of Jobcentres, and feedback shows they feel supported and confident in delivering this major welfare reform.''

SNP MP Angela Crawley said: "We have known that the roll-out of universal credit has been a shambles and the disastrous figures showing only 3,500 people in Scotland are currently receiving the benefit highlights the abject failure of these Tory plans.

"Now we can also see how the staff have been suffering at the hands of the DWP.

"It has been brought to my attention that PCS Union has recently balloted its members at the Bolton and Glasgow sites, with 84% of respondents voting in favour of strike action, with 90% in favour of action short of strike.

"My constituents tell me that this dispute has been caused by the imposition of new ways of working - changing long-standing working arrangements for staff, made without the agreement of PCS.

"The rollout of universal credit was years behind schedule and substantially over budget. Problems introducing a computer system to manage the policy saw £40 million spent on software completely written off and a further £90 million spent on IT that will only be of use for five years.

"Those working on universal credit have already been suffering from sub-standard IT systems, inadequate training and high levels of stress.

"The Secretary of State needs to take action and speak to relevant officials. It is unreasonable to impose even greater burdens on hard-pressed staff critical to the delivery of universal credit; and it is in no-one's interest for an industrial dispute to develop.''