asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the nature of the industrial dispute affecting the computer operations at his Department in Newcastle; what steps are being taken to end the dispute; and how many beneficiaries have been affected by delays in determining their benefits or in other ways.
§ Dr. Boyson
The dispute is over management plans to reorganise shift working arrangements. Because the proposed changes could affect the earnings of a small number of staff we have conducted prolonged negotiations and made generous transitional offers which would mean that no existing shift worker need suffer any loss of pay before April 1986 at the earliest when the situation would be reviewed. The unions broke off these negotiations to take strike action. We would welcome the reopening of negotiations.
Information as to the number of beneficiaries affected by delays is not available centrally, but emergency arrangements which have been introduced to maintain both the processing of claims and the payments due to current beneficiaries are designed to ensure that delays and inconvenience are kept to a minimum.