Reposted from PCS website
DWP is currently advertising externally for new AO staff to join as Fixed Term Appointments. However this recruitment exercise has been undersubscribed and has not generated the expected level of applications. As a result the department has decided to throw all of its long-standing, tried and tested recruitment policies and procedures out of the window and is resorting to taking on agency temps to cover core front line AO vacancies.
Agency temps have never been used to fill AO posts in DWP before. It is an insult to every AO in the department that DWP is now saying to them that their post can be filled with an agency temp at a moment’s notice, irrespective of their skills, experience or qualifications.
Start on Monday
The first temps are expected to be in post as early as 27th October. PCS was not even told of the possibility of this happening until Monday 20th October. DWP have agreed to review the use of agency temps to see how it works, after two or three weeks.
Not DWP staff
Temps remain employed by their agency, in this case the Brook Street Bureau, and so will not be DWP members of staff. They will be paid the AO Min but on top of that DWP will have to pay a fee to the Brook Street Bureau for their ‘service’ in providing these people.
Criminal Records Checks
Some of the temps will start in training with DWP before they have had a criminal records check. DWP were clear that they must not have access to DWP IT systems or talk to the public until the checks have been done. Brook Street Bureau claim they can do this check in one week whereas it takes DWP up to three weeks for the same check. The temps should receive the same new entrant training and induction as directly employed staff.
PCS asked management why they would not use temporary, directly employed casual staff instead. No real explanation was given for why they could not do this.
Undermining the civil service
PCS sees the use of agency temps as a serious undermining of the civil service. What were once seen as jobs with above average terms and conditions, reasonable career prospects and good job security are now being reduced to the level of agency temps. Temps have far worse rights at work than directly employed staff. They would have the same pay, hours and annual leave as directly employed staff but would not be covered by DWP policies on other terms and conditions like sick pay, special leave, etc.
PCS has been assured that this is a one-off measure to deal with an emergency shortage of staff in CCS. However there is a real risk that this is the thin end of the wedge and part of a wider strategy by the employer to casualise employment in DWP.
Given that 80 temps equates to just 0.125% of the total DWP staffing, it is unclear why such a tiny shortage amounts to a crisis requiring these emergency measures.
The 80 temps are to be used at Grimsby and Makerfield contact centres. DWP will have had no say in the people who Brook Street Bureau supply and will have no idea whether they are in any way suitable for these posts, or whether there is any intention for the temps to stay for more than a few days.
PCS has made it clear to the employer that we are completely opposed to this decision. Agency temps have no role in the civil service and PCS will campaign for an end to their use as soon as possible. PCS has asked for a meeting at with senior management in the department to seek a reversal of this decision.
While it may take a little longer to run a proper recruitment exercise, this is still what DWP should do. If DWP is unable to attract people to apply for its vacancies then maybe DWP should start to look at what it is offering new recruits. A good start would be a substantial increase in the AO rates of pay to ensure DWP is competitive with other employers.