HR boss at DWP admits to mistakes in pay dispute

The head of HR at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted to making mistakes during last year’s bitter pay dispute with the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.

In an exclusive interview with Personnel Today, Kevin White, HR director at the DWP, said he could have communicated the department’s planned strategies more clearly to its staff.

“The main lesson I learned was that while it is vital to remain committed to principles that you think are right, it is important to remember that disputes have to be settled,” White said.

“There may have been more times during the dispute when [the DWP] might have moved more quickly to seek common ground,” he added.

The 16-month pay dispute at the DWP led to six days of official strike action, a campaign of non-co-operation with a controversial performance development system and several unofficial walkouts.

White and the department’s senior management came in for some heavy criticism from both the union and its own staff during the dispute.

Last year’s DWP staff survey – obtained by Personnel Today – showed that more than four out of five employees had no confidence in senior management.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said that even though agreement was reached on some points, a perception emerged that, for some senior managers, implementing the performance system “had become a personal battle with the unions”.

“We have quite a constructive relationship with the HR department, but problems emerged when areas of consensus were overruled by management,” he said.

Both sides now seem keen to move on and White said: “There is an effective relationship which both sides are keen to build on.”

For a full interview with Kevin White go to www.personneltoday.com/indepth

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