After 8 days strike action, in addition to two days taken in support of the national campaign, the fight to keep open Garston Contact Centre in Liverpool has finally come to an end with the last staff moving out of Cressington House on 30th January.
Although we failed in our primary aim of keeping the site open, much has in fact been gained. When the closure was announce in at the end of January last year the only offers of relocation on offer from management was Birkenhead CMG and Bootle Call Centres.
This was totally unacceptable for many staff many of whom had been transferred to Garston following earlier closures, especially of Liverpool Contact Centre and Huyton Benefit Centre only 3 years ago.
The spirit and solidarity displayed by the Garston members was magnificent with 53 members out of around 150 turning out to picket during the week long strike in October, and throughout the campaign members’ support and participation has been high.
The cost of the closure at around £750.000 dwarfs the £100,000 alternative compromise proposals put to management by PCS would have cost.
At the heart of the campaign was opposition to the Governments’ austerity agenda, in defence of services and against treating PCS members like bits if office furniture.
If we had not fought all staff would have gone to Birkenhead or Bootle. But because of the resistance only 82 of the original 164 members balloted have moved to Bootle. Compulsory moves to Birkenhead taken out of the equation all together and 66 posts found in alternative locations for staff with the worst mobility, health and caring responsibilities. In addition to this DWP has for the first time agreed to extend the payment of excess fares to five years from the usual three.
None of this would have been achieved without a determined fight.
Although failing in the primary aim of the campaign the clear lessons to be learnt is that resistance brings results. With no let up in austerity there will need to be more fights like Garston’s in the future to take place alongside national action.