Headlines: February 15th, 2001

The Public and Commercial Services Union has signed a landmark agreement on working arrangements for call centers with the Employment Service. Although the deal relates specifically to the Employment Services’ new network of customer service centers, it is likely to become a standard for public sector call centers across the board.The use of centers by central and local government is set to burgeon as the move towards the one stop shop gathers momentum. An example of this trend is the Inland Revenue’s radical programme to shift customer service away from paper and towards electronic services.The Employer Direct service will be launched nationally in the Autumn. It will use a network of eleven customer service centres to enable employers to place job vacancies with the Employment Service via a single local call rate national number or by fax or e-mail. Both employers and jobseekers will have 24 hours electronic access to Jobcentre services. The centres will have a total of 1,100 staff.

The agreement, which covers working arrangements such as flexible hours and call monitoring systems, became necessary because working patterns and practices will be significantly different to those in Jobcentres.

The agreement was developed through the experience of the pilot in Peterlee, and it will guarantee staff security, safety, comfort and equality of opportunity.