DBS trims customer service centre hours as strike begins

Staff working on agency’s webchat, helpline and email support begin walkout 

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The Disclosure and Barring Service is cutting back the operating hours of its contact centre next week in a bid to cope with a six-day strike by contract workers seeking an improved pay offer.

Eighty employees of Hinduja Global Solutions who are members of the PCS union today began a walk out from their roles at the DBS customer-service facility in Liverpool. The staff are employed in Liverpool to deliver a contract that was outsourced to India-headquartered Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS), and covers the provision of webchat, telephone helpline and some back-office functions.

The move follows a ballot that saw the rejection of a 3.25% pay offer, which PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said was “not acceptable” at a time when inflation is running at more than 10%. Last week the Bank of England said it expected inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index to hit 13.1% before the end of the year.

Ahead of the strike, DBS said customers using phone, email and webchat services “may face some disruption and delays” and that contact-centre hours were being pared back as part of the response strategy.

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It said opening hours would be reduced to 9am to 5pm on Monday to Friday, compared with the contact centre’s normal 8am to 6pm hours. The centre will not offer a Saturday service next week, although its normal Saturday hours are 10am to 5pm.

“During the industrial action, HGS is putting additional resources in place to try and minimise the inconvenience to customers as much as possible,” DBS said. “The industrial action is not expected to have any significant impact on turnaround times for DBS checks or barring decisions. Our core services will not be affected and employers and customers should continue to access them as normal.”

In addition to providing customer contact centre services, HGS also provides what DBS describes as “a certain number” of administrative functions.

The industrial action is the latest step in a growing number of strikes over pay affecting public-sector services.

This week the Royal College of Nursing confirmed it will ballot members on strike action next month in support of its pay demand for a rise equivalent to RPI plus 5%. For decades, the Retail Prices Index was the UK’s preferred measure of inflation, as it affects consumers. In June it stood at 11.8%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Eleven days after the RCN ballot opens, PCS is due to hold a national strike ballot for departmental staff over the government’s proposed 2%-3% rises for civil servants. PCS is seeking 10% and a 2% cut in pension contributions, among other demands.

Its ballot will run from 26 September to 7 November – kicking off during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, a week before the Conservative Party’s gathering in Birmingham.


Sam Trendall

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