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131018atosstrike

You know things have come to a pretty pass when the government’s own hit squad plans to strike against low pay.

It seems Atos workers who are members of the PCS union have voted for industrial action after they rejected below-inflation and conditional pay offers from their employer.

This is the company that is under contract to receive £1.6 billion from the UK government, to carry out the hated Work Capability Assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions, mark you.

According to PCS, members working for Atos IT Services and in Atos Healthcare voted to support strike action by a proportion of more than 80 per cent. More than 90 per cent supported action short of a strike.

A union spokesperson said: “As we demonstrated in 2012, members have shown they are prepared to support their elected representatives and defend their interests. Atos should be under no illusions that we are prepared to take action.”

If you’re like me, you don’t know they demonstrated anything at all in 2012 – but I have unearthed a previous press release from PCS that mysteriously doesn’t seem to have made it into the news.

It states that PCS members working for Atos were going to take action over pay on August 13 this year but suspended the action at the 11th hour when Atos made an improved offer.

This involved the immediate payment of the Living Wage (Labour must have been happy at that) to all PCS members with more than three months’ service; a two per cent pay uplift for members who already received more than the Living Wage in April this year; a £320 “non-consolidated payment” to all Atos IT Services staff and a £3100 “non-consolidated payment” to Atos Healthcare staff; a new pay process (for PCS members only – presumably other Atos staff could go whistle) in Healthcare and IT Services; a PCS and Atos working party to develop a more transparent appraisal system; and development of a joint PCS and Atos plan to promote “respect, dignity and fair treatment for all workers”.

This indicates that Atos workers receive a very low wage for what they do. You may find this surprising, considering the size of the contracts awarded by the Coalition government; in 2011-12 Atos received £112.4 million to carry out 738,000 assessments. That comes out at £152.30 per hour-long assessment.

If this money is not going to the so-called ‘medical professionals’ who carry out the assessments or their support staff, it could go a long way towards explaining how Atos boss Thierry Breton managed to bump up his pay package by £280,000 to £2,329,250 this year.

It also shows that the ministers at the DWP (after this blog was upbraided for insulting gutter vermin with a previous comparison, let’s call them pond scum this time around) and their allies at Atos, including Mr Breton, seem to have no problem with treating their own staff almost as badly as they treat claimants of sickness and disability benefits.

The DWP, in partnership with Atos: Making Work Pay Less.

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