PCS proclaimed its two-day strike by members employed at the Department of Work and Pensions on Monday and Tuesday this week a resounding success. They were protesting at a below-inflation pay package that is effectively a pay cut.
Around 80,000 DWP workers came out on strike, affecting job centres, benefits offices, the pension service and Child Support Agency. It led to the closure of some offices with those remaining open offering little or no service to the public. The public experienced difficulty getting through to call centres with recorded messages telling people to call back at a later date.
This was the second two-day strike in this dispute; the first took place in December last year against a backdrop of worsening industrial unrest across the civil service, as the government seeks to cap pay to below inflation across the civil and public services.
The strike continued to receive strong support on its final day, as members continued to show their anger by staying away from work as they protested over the imposition of a three-year pay offer averaging just one per cent a year.
The imposed pay offer also sees 40 per cent of staff receiving nothing this year and the lowest paid receiving increases that take their wage to only 24 pence above the minimum wage.
With figures out on Tuesday showing inflation on the rise, the union accused the government and DWP management of actively seeking to drive down wages and warned that further industrial action could follow if they continued with their refusal to find a negotiated outcome which ensured fair and just pay.
Below inflation pay as a result of the Government’s pay cap has also prompted strongly supported strike action in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Department for Transport, Driving Standards Agency (DSA), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Highways Agency, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and Vehicle Certification Agency.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka commented: “The fact that inflation is continuing to rise in the midst of the Government’s cap on public sector pay is further evidence that public servants are not the cause of inflation, they are the victims.
“The strong support for the strike demonstrates that staff who have been battered and bruised by job cuts will not tolerate low pay increases that will result in cuts in living standards for many hard working staff. DWP managers and Government ministers must not be allowed to get away with pay levels that are so low some full-time staff will receive increases which will take their pay to only 24 pence above the national minimum wage.
“Instead of squandering millions on private consultants, contractors and divisive bonus schemes, ministers and DWP managers should negotiate seriously with PCS about reaching a fair settlement that will protect living standards and end low pay.”
Tanya Walker, North Yorkshire PCS DWP branch secretary, said the strike had caused severe disruption, affecting job centres and DWP offices throughout York and North Yorkshire.
She said: “Members of the public have been severely affected which is something we do regret. Because job centres are currently being staffed with such minimal levels of staffing anyone going in will experience long waiting times or they may find specialist officers are unavailable.”