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Unions call for strike action over 'unusable' Universal Credit IT

Getting it off the ground is like kicking a dead dog

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 to scratch.

"There is still a lot of downtime due to the systems being unusable," he said.

He said the "well publicised" IT failures have created huge pressure to try and get the scheme off the ground – which is being "driven by political" rather than a realistic approach of what is needed.

The 1,500 workers across Bolton and Glasgow sites voted in favour of strike action by 84 per cent. A date has not yet been set.

The union spokesman continued: "We want a fundamental rethink of the new 'ways of working' that restrict flexibility, an end to the excessive target culture and proper investment in IT and training to ensure staff are equipped to deliver what is an essential public service."

Lifetime costs of the project have now escalated by £3bn to £15.8bn.

Last year the Department for Work and Pensions spent a further £323.8m on the project. However, the National Audit Office has said just £34m of the project's IT investment could potentially be reusable.

Originally the project – started in 2011 – was supposed to be complete by 2015/16, but the date has since been shifted to 2020.

So far just 65,000 of nine million eligible people are on the system. Acting shadow work and pensions secretary Stephen Timms MP (Labour) has warned that a "significant breakthrough" is now urgently required to prove the severely delayed project is not beyond redemption.

A spokeswoman from the DWP said it was still in negotiations with the union and that industrial action had not yet been finalised.

She said: “The overall feedback from Universal Credit staff is their training is effective and more importantly, they feel supported and confident in delivering this major welfare reform. In the event of any strike action the Department will ensure that the Universal Credit service continues to run smoothly.”®

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