A strike by civil service workers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) brought job centres, benefit offices, the Child Support Agency and call centres to a halt on Thursday, the first day of a two-day strike.
The PCS union members are striking against Gordon Brown’s below inflation pay offer.
The two-day stoppage adds more pressure on a government already surrounded by controversy.
The strike was triggered by a pay offer imposed by the DWP which will see approximately 40 percent of staff receiving 0 percent pay increase next year.
“An estimated 70,000 PCS members supported the first day of the two-day strike over the imposed below inflation pay offer,” said a PCS spokesperson. “Many reps reported a better turnout than the excellent national action in May.”
Kate Douglas, joint branch secretary of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire PCS, reports that the strike has been well supported across the region. “The strike was very solid at the Oxford job centre where I work,” she said.
“We were also really pleased to hear that there were strong pickets at both sites in Aylesbury. Milton Keynes, where there are about 250 DWP workers, also had an excellent turnout for the strike."
The strike ends on Friday at 7pm and will be followed by a two-week overtime ban.
Some info on the strike:
Why are civil servants on strike?
The Government have insisted that pay rises for public sector workers are below inflation increases. But for staff in DWP the limit is to be capped at 1% per year over the next 3 years, with no increase at all for many in 2008.
Meanwhile inflation is over 4%.
DWP management have just imposed a 3 year pay offer despite it being rejected by a 3 to 1 majority of PCS members. Now they are refusing to even talk to the unions about this.
DWP staff perform vital jobs in getting unemployed people into jobs and paying pensions and benefits to millions. Every citizen uses the DWP during their life. The staff who work there should be valued for this work.
I thought civil servants were well paid?
Civil servants in DWP are on very low wages. Over half of DWP staff are paid less than £17,700. Some are on as little as £12,500 a year. Thousands have to rely on tax credits to make ends meet. It is a national scandal that the government stands back and lets city workers get £8 billion in bonuses while saying that civil servants must accept paltry pay raises to keep inflation in check.
The pay might be poor but aren't civil service jobs for life?
Not any more. In DWP alone we have lost over 25,000 jobs in the last three years, with still more cuts planned by the government. Hundreds of our members are currently under threat of compulsory redundancy and face an uncertain future. Management have refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, even though there is no real need for any in DWP.