back to article Unions call for strike action over 'unusable' Universal Credit IT

Trade union members have voted to strike over the deeply troubled Universal Credit IT project, citing an "increasingly oppressive working environment" and "unusable systems". Despite the project having been “re-set” and a new digital system introduced, a spokesman from the PCS trade union said that the systems are still not up …

  1. Trollslayer Silver badge

    A spokeswoman from the DWP

    Treated us like idiots in order to protect her salary.

  2. AMBxx Silver badge


    Yes, that will help remove the backlog.

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: Strike?


      - Fence needs painting

      - 2 spotlights need new bulbs

      - weeds are clearly out of control

      - Haven't seen Dave in ages

      A strike will definitely help the backlog

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Strike?

        Don't even remind me.

  3. Merchman

    I'm sure IDS "believes" that the systems will work so that's okay. And a strike shouldn't get in the way of DWP employees asking terminally ill people when they're going to die.

    1. Shady

      DWP employees do not ask terminally ill claimants when they are going to die. They just assume they are fit for work.

      1. Merchman

        I know you're joking, but I wasn't:

        [quote]In a letter sent to Duncan Smith on 30 June, Field writes: “My constituents tell me that despite submitting a DS 1500 form drawing attention to a terminal illness, they have been asked directly to their face whether they think they will soon die and by what date they expect to be dead. In one case my constituent’s mother was asked by when she expected her daughter to die and in front of her daughter.”[quote]

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Unfortunately these jobs do not attract the smarter more useful members of society. I shudder to think just how unintelligent you would have to be in order to ask such questions in such circumstances. I'm surprised they can even make it to work they must be that shit-thick.

          1. Magnus_Pym

            This is more of the 'I don't care how you do it, just get it done' bluster style of management from people who don't know what they are doing but went to right school so feel they must be better than everyone else. Stupid ideas don't get shot down early because 'politics' so the people at the front end are just left looking like the idiots when really it's idiots above and all the way up.

            1. Northumbrian

              Donkeys led by donkeys

              You are looking at two different phenomena here. One is rampant managerialism - "If I shout at you long enough, you will discover how to get this system to produce the figures I want." The usual expressions of this are (a) targets + rewards and (b) bullying - or "carrot" and "stick". The whole being reinforced by massive ignorance at the top - IDS runs on "beliefs" not facts and when he doesn't like the figures he throws a tantrum until everyone agrees that the figures are ones IDS will like. Getting people off benefit has become the major preoccupation (target) and since finding them real jobs is too difficult, staff are being bullied into meeting sanctioning targets. This can mean sanctioning people for turning up late to a JobCentre appointment, even when they are delayed by attending a job interview which they could be sanctioned for missing.

              The second factor is the determination to transform the idea of "social security" into that of "scrounging". This means that any mistreatment of claimants is justified because they're pond-life. This too is encouraged from the top. For all their PR to the contrary the DWP's own figures show that genuine "error" - often their own! - accounts for as much lost money as fraud. None the less, staff are encouraged to treat all claimants as potential/probably fraudsters - hence the "why aren't you dead yet?" approach. "He can't come to the JobCentre, he's in intensive care, hooked up to machines." "Well, put him on the phone then, we can discuss his next steps into looking for work that way."

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh well I look forward to newspapers and commentards in the run up to the next election explaining to me how the universal credit system failed due to public sector workers and strikes.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      It was the straw that broke the camel's back, the cherry on the cake....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unusable IT is grounds for striking?

    Blimey, I should have been out for the last 5 years.

    Oh wait, I'm not public sector or unionised, so I just have to fix it.

    1. Awil Onmearse

      Re: Unusable IT is grounds for striking?

      "Oh wait, I'm not public sector or unionised, so I just have to fix it."

      You're evidently not a actual user of your unusable IT, then. Must suck balls working for Accenture - sorry about that.

  6. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    "In the event of any strike action the Department will ensure that the Universal Credit service continues to run smoothly."

    Just a minute, let me get my breath back... I've not had such a good laugh in weeks.

    It seems this particular poltico just managed to reinvent the meanings of the words "continue", "run" and "smoothly".

    1. auburnman

      I dunno, you get continuous smooth runs from a bout of the skitters, so this could well describe an IDS project to a T without having to twist meanings.

    2. launcap Silver badge

      >It seems this particular poltico just managed to reinvent the meanings of the words "continue", "run" and "smoothly".

      *All*[1] politicians are infected with the Red Queen linguistic virus as a condition of employment[2].

      [1] Well - almost all.

      [2] As opposed to condition of work.

    3. Ian Bush

      But not "universal". That went a long time ago...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      When my wife worked in unemployment benefit claims many years ago they were only allowed to strike after payments had been processed, so wouldn't in for a few days then strike for a couple of days then back to work etc. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the same rules applied here

  7. Lallabalalla

    I effing hate this government

    That is all

  8. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    15.8 billion!?

    15.8 billion. That's right, just say it again. 15.8 billion. Feel the words come slowly out of your mouth. Think about those words. 15.8 billion...

    That's nearly £250k for each of the 65,000 people on the system. They could have just been given that and told to sort their lives out, or start a business or something...

    Just for comparative analysis, what else could you get for 15.8 billion, just so we're completely comfortable with exactly how much money this is?

    1. theblackhand

      Re: 15.8 billion!?

      I suspect you could get one and a bit failed NHS IT projects for that amount.

      What do you mean that wasn't the answer you were after?

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: 15.8 billion!?

      what else could you get for 15.8 billion

      Greece. (With change).

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: 15.8 billion!?

      That's £250 for every man, woman, and child in the UK. I'd certainly appreciate not having that sizeable a portion of my taxes wasted on a vanity project, especially not one dreamed up by the vile IDS.

      Remind me again exactly who is sponging off the tax-payer, because from where I'm sitting, it doesn't look like the poorest in society.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 15.8 billion!?

      It would probably be more cost-effective to employ everyone on benefits to process their own benefits by hand.

  9. bharq
    Paris Hilton


    While I'm all for the creative use of bylines by the Reg, as a non-native English speaker, the present one got me slightly confused

    "Getting it off the ground is like kicking a dead dog"

    What am I to make of this?

    - that it's dead easy? (pardon the pun)

    - that it smells and flies come out?

    - that it's quite useless? (getting it off the ground, that is, not the system per se)

    - that it's something you generally want to avoid?

    Please, noble English speakers, El Reg commentards and other know-it-alls, I would be much obliged if you could enlighten me on this subject

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: byline

      I think it's more like your second suggestion -- only it's a lot riper than that.

      You couldn't even make a curry with it!

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

        Re: byline

        You could when I was a student in Manchester....

        1. WaveyDavey


          Palace ? Plaza ?

          Enquiring minds want to know ...

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: byline

      All of these.

  10. Bbbbit

    Could be worse...

    I suspect my systems would make there's look like the Starship Enterprise. Yup, I'm in the NHS. Our IT systems require us to stay at work more to get the job done. If only I'd known that pissing off home was the solution.

  11. Northumbrian

    RE unusable systems

    "Unusable IT is grounds for striking?

    Blimey, I should have been out for the last 5 years.

    Oh wait, I'm not public sector or unionised, so I just have to fix it."

    You think public sector workers are allowed to FIX their systems? Wow - you are out of touch. Or perhaps they should just "manage". Did you know that, in 2013, they were still designing the front end for claimants of a new benefit, PIP. The system was ready for testing with real clients and the whole thing was supposed (it being shiny new and all) to run on a modern PC - or modern-ish anyway. So which browsers could you use? Remember, we're talking second decade of 21st century here. Answers: IE 6 and Netscape 2. That's it. How are staff supposed to "fix" that?

    Going back to Universal Credit - that is an "online only" system (supposedly). IDS told everyone that having to use a computer to apply for UC would be excellent training for getting into the world of work. Of course, quite a number of those claiming UC are the illiterate or the semi-literate, many of whom do not have a computer with a broadband connection, a keyboard and a mouse. No matter, say the DWP, there are always public libraries - which the Department of whatever is busy closing down or staffing with volunteers.

    How many UC claimants are going to be able to turn up at their local library, find someone who can teach them how to log on to a computer, how to use a browser and fill in a form ("Why is it all in big letters?", "I just typed in all the words and now they aren't there and the thing kept flashing at me ...") and where to enter your bank details, NI number and all those other bits of "security" stuff. And then how you make sure no one else sees it by logging off properly. And how you fill in a 30-page form half of which you don't understand in the 30 minutes you have before your time slot is up.

    So then they have to go the JobCentre and ask the staff there to show them how to do it - which means the staff have to do all of the above plus getting abused by the drunks, the confused, the humiliated and the mentally ill whilst they are supposed to be filling out the forms which will sanction others for failing to turn up.

    You can't just "fix" the asinine forms or the useless help screens any more than you can teach those gave up reading hard words a decade ago what all this stuff means and what they have to do about it. And if said screens keep crashing whenever you are trying to do your bit of the job, then you can't "fix" them.

    Even IT staff can't just "fix" things. UC is designed to allow information to be shared between the DWP and HMRC. Do you suppose that the staff being asked (say) to design a front end for staff at the DWP are allowed to fish around the bowels of the HMRC system? I'll bet there are high-end managerial wars going on there as each department protects it IT turf - HMRC's own IT record may not be great, but it's got to be better than that of the DWP. The UC project is going through senior managers at a rate of knots - all the heads of UC seem to have fallen ill or discovered a vocation for the private sector.

    Though I understand the DWP have outsourced quite a bit of the work to the private sector - several different bits of the private sector. Do you suppose they are all working together harmoniously to a clear master plan drawn up by their clients, which has been changed only in response to a well-documented consultation and testing programme? Meanwhile the Treasury is hovering over everyone, trying to get some reliable figures as to just how much money has been wasted.

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