1,000 civil servants walk out on strike
UP TO 1,000 civil servants are striking across North Staffordshire today as part of a national day of action.
PCS union members in courts, Jobcentres and tax and benefit offices are staging today's 24-hour walkout.
It has been planned to coincide with this afternoon's Budget announcement which is set to unveil a further £2.5 billion spending cuts across most Government departments.
But PCS leaders say public sector workers have already borne the brunt of previous cuts.
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They are calling on the Government to re-enter negotiations over pay, pensions and terms and conditions.
Union members were due to join other anti-cuts campaigners at a rally outside Hanley Benefit Centre, in Albion Square, Hanley, at 11am today.
Picket lines have also been organised outside Jobcentres in Hanley, Newcastle and Kidsgrove, and at the Blackburn House tax office, in Hanley.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court was also closed today due to the industrial action.
The county and family courts in the same building are still open.
The PCS has 600 members within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in North Staffordshire, 230 in HM Revenue and Customs, and around 50 in the court service.
PCS North Staffordshire branch secretary Peter Rofe, below, said: "The Government is asking us to work harder than ever to provide services to the public. But instead of rewarding us for that they are cutting our pay, raiding our pensions and ripping up our terms and conditions.
"And now they're even refusing to talk to us about it.
"It's impossible to negotiate if one side refuses to come to the table.
"Past strike action has resulted in the HMRC making concessions for additional compliance officers, and last summer the threat of industrial action at the Home Office was withdrawn after they agreed to create 1,000 new jobs in the border force and passport service. So we believe industrial action has got results in the past. The first thing we want this time is for the employers to come back to the negotiating table."
The PCS union has almost 250,000 members across the country. It is also planning a half-day strike on April 5 – the last day of the tax year.
But the DWP today said previous PCS strikes had caused only 'minimal disruption' to services
A spokesman said: "Wherever possible Jobcentres will remain open.
"Our contingency plans include prioritising our resources so we can continue to make payments to our customers as normal.
"We will also maintain telephone services and where possible face-to-face services."