13 September 2011
When a soldier is killed in action their family doesn’t just lose a loved one – they also lose a breadwinner.
Financial arrangements to ensure a prompt and sympathetic payment of death in service benefit are handled by PCS members based in Glasgow.
They are in a Ministry of Defence building on Brown Street, but the work has been contracted out to the California-based IT and facilities company Hewlett Packard.
Janice MacKay is secretary of the PCS branch for HP workers on the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency contract in Scotland’s second city.
She said: “We do an important and worthwhile job. When there are conflicts with deaths and injuries it is imperative that support for bereaved families and wounded service people is done properly and with a personal touch. These people can’t just be statistics to us.”
Janice is a pensions administrator.
Her branch members also deal with pay and personnel.
There are 300 HP workers at the MoD in Glasgow – at the Brown Street building and at a data handling centre which stores files including the wills of soldiers, sailors, and airforce staff in case they die in service.
Around 250 are PCS members – a good density, which has enabled the branch to negotiate decent pay in the past.
Janice said: “When we have ballots more than 90% of our members usually back the union recommendation. With the strength of the members behind us our negotiators can make progress. Management wouldn’t give us anything if they thought we couldn’t follow through.”
A five-year pay progression deal, negotiated with EDS, the previous contract holder, means the minimum wage for ex-civil servants working for HP on the MoD contract in Glasgow is £19,500.
Janice said: “That rate is higher than many people earn in similar grades in the civil service or other privatised contracts.
“We picked our battle well and negotiated when the contract was up for renewal.”
The success of the Glasgow branch is revealed by the fact that PCS is seeking a minimum wage of £15,500 elsewhere in HP.
Janice said: “We have ten people on the branch executive. We go round and talk to people and call regular all-members meetings so people feel involved and informed.”
Elsewhere in HP the big issue this year has been offshoring – with work on a Department for Work and Pensions contract earmarked for transfer to India.
Janice said: “Because we deal with the records of military personnel it would be politically very sensitive if our work was sent offshore.
“But you never know – we shouldn’t be complacent about it.”
Learn more about our work in HP at pcs.org.uk/hp
Pensions administrator, Hewlett Packard on a Service Personnel and Veterans Agency contract, Glasgow
I’m usually in the office by 7.30am. I’m a morning person and arriving early means I can find a parking space.
Although HP is known as an IT company we are far from a paperless office.
The pensions all have paper files. We take paperwork from a basket and work through it.
I am on miscellaneous inquiries which are not too mundane.
When someone has been discharged from the service we process their details – making sure their pension is paid or discharged. And we answer queries from veterans about their service records and entitlements.
As branch secretary I am allowed time for union duties. I usually fit it around my work commitments. We have a good relationship with local management so that works well.