DWP ‘try to ban’ PCS posters about number of callers who threaten suicide because of cuts to disability benefits


by Pete Murray – 16th June 2012, 8.15 BST


Managers in government call centres have been taking down union posters (pictured) that expose the brutal way workers are told to treat people on benefits.

Bosses in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said the notices were offensive and an incitement to take industrial action.

The PCS posters were on union notice boards and highlight the real experiences of workers in DWP call centres – including one who was told off for wishing an unemployed person “good luck” (pictured, below).

They also refer to the number of callers who threaten suicide because of cuts to disability benefits.

Industrial action is not mentioned anywhere on the posters.

The PCS poster campaign is a response to what the union says is an insensitive management propaganda campaign aimed at people who take time off sick.

Fran Heathcote, president of the PCS DWP group, said. “This is as an attack on the union’s independence.

“The posters are no different in content to those we’ve used before and we can see no justification for them being banned.”

Separately, PCS is to hold a consultative ballot among some of its members in government call centres in a campaign over working conditions.

The ballot will commence on 25th June, with the result expected in mid-July.

Officials say their campaign has lead to ‘some improvements’, but that these are not enough.

Union News

18 thoughts on “DWP ‘try to ban’ PCS posters about number of callers who threaten suicide because of cuts to disability benefits

  1. DAVID A SHAW says:

    Does not surprise me, further anti -union action and government policy to treat benefit claimants as if they are less than human. Shows clearly where all the propaganda and hatred began does it not.

  2. kasbah says:

    So they treat their staff with the same disrespect as they treat us- trying to strip them and therefore us of our common humanity. A tactic used by dictatorships and interrogators!I therefore truly admire the woman on the ESA line who, on hearing my distress at my ESA stopping (I’d been in WRAG group for a year) said it(the new one year limit) was a very drastic move by the Government and how sorry she was. I wonder if she is still in work. I hope PCS stand up to them.

    1. BlackDragon says:

      I worked there for eight years, and I honestly have to say that it is the worst employer I have worked for. Not all DWP staff are horrible; mostly, they’re overworked with stupid unreachable targets, and terrified to go sick themselves because it’s just not allowed.

  3. Duncan A. Smith says:

    Isn’t it amazing that those of us trying to RIGHTFULLY claim DLA (I have Asperger Syndrome which is a form of Autism) instead of being lazy slackers who are out to swindle the system MUST have all our information in by a certain date and then they (DWP) drag their feet giving you back your money. My DLA was stopped because I was deemed fit for work, just because I am physically able to walk and talk – Asperger is a mental disability/difficulty and even though although I put in doctor’s letters saying that I am not fit for work as well as the original diagnosis of my condition, I still have not heard whether I am going to be granted anything. No wonder we lose it when call centre staff are not allowed to be human to you!! Also ESA was changed to income based about a week after the Tories changed the law – because it immediately got back-dated! A rule for the rich and a rule for everyone else….

  4. Findlow says:

    I hope DWP staff who see the misery caused by the government’s policies will try and speak out. It must be difficult for them as the article shows. They must fear for their jobs like anyone else. But fear can’t be allowed to win; it’s what the government want. The unions have to speak up loudly, repeatedly, consistently and with one voice.

  5. PennyL says:

    By doing this DWP have made sure these posters will be copied and shared and will inspire staff in other services to speak up via their unions. Thanks DWP!

  6. Grev says:

    I started work for the DSS in 1978. At that time government departments were yardsticks for other employers. By the time I left the Tory government were beating us with that yardstick. This is what it’s like now with Iain Duncan Smith in charge. It makes me sick to my stomach

  7. Humanity2012 says:

    Makes my Blood Boil the Tory Anti Trade Union and Strike Laws are an Act of
    Tyranny and should be Repealed

    It is Beyond In Human for the Diabolical Rubbish coming from Managers in
    Call Centres to be Happening

    Human Rights for Staff and Benefit Claimants Now

    Now Not Ever We Need Things to Get Better

  8. michelle jackson says:

    i work for the Dwp and it is just has bad for the staff as it is for the customers a place i feel thoroughly ashamed of working at The emphasis is on getting disabled people back into work yet their own staff with disabilities are being pushed out

  9. Jane Russell says:

    Not shocked at all! No different to when I worked for the DWP (Benefits Agency as was) for 7 years during the last Tory reign of misery.
    We used to have regular whole office meetings threatening us that if we spilled the beans of what was really going on to the press, we would face charges under the official secrets act. Because Maggie introduced targets, the fugures were massaged on a regular basis & I remember when she disbanded the regional reserves – a team that travelled around the country, getting offices who were sinking under the worload, back up to date – the IS section were drowning so badly, that it was ordered that thousands & thousands of pieces of post sitting in dozens and dozens of boxes were juist put in comfi waste sacks and destroyed.
    Nothing much has changed, if anything it’s getting worse – having spoken to ex colleagues who still work in that misery & a few from other offices. Morale is at an all time low – staff cuts mean overpayments are increasing – which they demand back in threatening letters, but can’t actually ask people to repay unless it was caused by fraud or deception. An utter shambles then & an utter shambles now.
    After 7 years it became unbareable – many staff actually had nervous breakdowns, so many that the top shrink in the area wrote to the department, as he was seeing more and more patients that worked there & wasn’t happy.
    These new rules are nazi style & I cannot believe they are getting away with it. The DWP staff hate them as much as we do as they are blatently unfair & downright evil!
    Where will it all end & how many people have to die before someone stops Cameron’s Hitler fetish?

  10. bollothedragon says:

    As someone who has been signed of sick from work for quite some time, my recent evaluation now makes more sense, none of the circumstances surrounding my illness have changed, the doctor at my first evaluation said her recomendation was that I would be unfit for work for the rest of my life, after this years assessment I got a phone call in which the dwp person told me I was being moved onto income support, a bit of a surprise since i was evaluated in the support group of esa, when I said ok but it would be best if I simply refer this to a charity helping me, the decision was changed.

    To be honest I think a lot of people don’t realise how significantly work and benifits can effect a persons mental health, if working conditions within the DWP are this bad people creating these working conditions need to be replaced or changed to job share or retrained by either people on the telephone end or better still by intelligent people who are through no fault of their own in the position of having to use the benefit system because they are too ill to be working.

  11. Celia says:

    The government are trying to destroy the unions so they can get rid of any rights that we have in the workplace.

  12. Celia says:

    What I want to know is how many call centre staff feel suicidal because of the conditions they are forced to work under.

  13. Jane Russell says:

    Funnily enough Celia, I was wondering whether to make a public disclosure request asking
    a/ how many DWP staff have been signed off work with mental illness since 1990
    b/ how many staff are medically retired due to mental illness caused by their jobs
    c/ how many staff had comitted suicide
    but I expect they’d say it wasn’t something they can answer.
    When I was there in the 90’s, under the last Tory fiasco, – a young colleague comitted suicide due to having had a holiday & then he went AWOL, as he was absolutely dreading going back to work. He was 20/21. Heartbreaking!
    A meeting was called for all of us to attend one morning, & his poor Mum came in to talk to us & comfort the staff that it was not our fault for not seeing this was on the cards. Everyone was stressed to the max in that place. When she had left, we were told we could not speak to the outside world about it, & were expected to carry on working as though nothing had happened!
    Ironically, my partner, who was a lift engineer, had found him dead near the lift in a multi storey car park in the next town, having taken an overdose & had come home in the evening & told me about it, had no idea it would be our colleague. That was the beginning of the end for me.
    People think that DWP don’t care, whilst some don’t, there’s a lot that do – to cut working there for decades you have to become ‘immune’ to it, although to those who care, you never quite manage it. Some of my old colleagues are still there, having been there 20/30 years – many feel they can’t leave because no one else would employ them. I know that morale is as low as it can go & the government is trying to vilify them as much as it is disabled people & has plans to make a “smaller more efficient” civil service, & have recently put up a notice for peoples views on DC’s RP pony FB page, which basically means the front line staff will be thinned to nothing – disaster! They & the unions are often the only ones standing up for genuine claimants.

  14. kasbah says:

    This is so sad Jane. Although in the past I have had some poor experiences, recently I have had empathic people on both the DLA and the ESA lines. The ESA people have actually expressed sympathy for the bad WCA decision I received and the lack of explanations given although regularly ringing to chase these up.

    I eventually received a call from a woman at the WCA dept itself- who sounded gentle but world weary and could not have been more helpful- even giving me sound advice on how to appeal effectively. She was as critical of the WCA system and the Government as she could be (saying she couldn’t say any more) without (I hope) getting disciplined. I am getting the impression of a sea change in the staff all of whom have recently said how they just want to do their best to help their customers and sound like they are heartily sick of government policy. This Government has 2 interests only- to get rid of the public sector and to stockpile cash- piles of cash- for themselves. Shame on them. May PCS prevail.

  15. Jacqueline Perrie says:

    Maybe decent d.w.p staff should unite with the claimants as both sides are being manipulated through the use of fear! That’s the real weapon of mass destruction! Only through whistle blowing can this evil be defeated. It takes courage but we are going to be in the same boat in the end! Time to stand together don’t give them divide and conquer!

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