Monday, 8 March 2010

Jobcentres to be hit in 48-hour walk-out

More than a quarter of a million civil servants are to take strike for a forty-eight hour period over redundancy pay, in what will be the biggest unrest by the sector in more than two decades.

Courts, ports, job and tax centres and emergency police call centres will be hit by the walkout by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Services at Jobcentres across Lincolnshire and other government offices will grind to a halt today.

The walk-out today and continuing into Tuesday will affect courts and tax offices, while driving tests may well be postponed. Strike action looks likely to hit civil and public services every week of this month after the union ballot showed 63.4% of members who voted backing strike action and 81.4% supporting an overtime ban.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union are angry about government moves to cut redundancy terms, which can currently lead to pay-outs of up to six-and-a-half years' worth of salary.

Analysts say the average severance payment is three years of pay – much more generous than most public sector schemes. However, union members say any plan to reduce that would hit staff hard at a time when the recession is hitting people in the pocket.

Mr. Graham Peck, Public and Commercial Services Union, Lincolnshire Branch Secretary, representing workers at the Department for Work and Pensions, has been reported in the Lincolnshire Echo as saying that any plans to reduce protection for members would lead to more people being compulsorily made redundant or having their jobs privatised.

"The strike action will affect Jobcentres across the county as well as the Jobcentre and Jobcentre call centre in Lincoln and the courts and other government departments," he said.

"We have 470-odd members in the county, including 250 in Lincoln, and we know that a lot of them are walking out, along with a lot of non-members.

"Our members face losing a great deal of money.

"The Government is arguing that the public knows why we are going on strike but we don't believe they do."
Cabinet Office minister, Tessa Jowell MP, is reported by BBC News as saying that the decision to strike was 'very disappointing', particularly as 'less than one in five' of PCS members voted in favour of the action, representing 'only around 10% of the total civil service workforce'.

She said:
"The changes to the civil service compensation scheme were agreed with five of the six civil service unions after 18 months of negotiation and consultation. These unions all agree with us that the resulting deal is fair for staff and taxpayers.

"During the negotiating process, we responded to union concerns by ensuring additional protection for lower paid staff.

"Those earning £30,000 or less - 80% of all staff - will still get up to between two and three years salary, while civil servants earning over £30,000 will have redundancy pay capped at two times salary.

"This package brings the civil service more into line with the rest of the public sector and still offers more generous terms than much of the private sector."

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