Dearne workers join regional strike

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Public sector workers downed tools across the Dearne Valley as part of a wave of industrial action against Government changes to pay and conditions.

More than 200 workers at a debt recovery centre in Manvers and staff at the Job Centre Plus in Mexborough were among tens of thousands of civil servants who began a rolling programme of strikes on Monday.

The wave of regional strikes were launched by Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

They are campaigning against government imposed cuts to pay, pensions, jobs and working conditions.

Pete Murray, a PCS committee member for Doncaster, said: “Staff have been treated with contempt. It is disgraceful.”

More than 30,000 workers took part in the action in the north east and across Yorkshire and the Humber, which kick started a series of regional strikes all this week.

The action forms part of the union’s three-month civil service-wide campaign to stop government plans to close HMRC’s walk-in tax advice centres in the UK and divert enquiries to jobcentres, which union officials say are already overloaded.

Pilot closures of 13 inquiry service centres in the north east started on Monday.

A PCS spokesman said union members are asking for:-

* A minimum pay rise of 5 per cent or £1,200 for all civil servants this year

* The living wage to underpin all government contracts

* No cuts to terms and conditions

* No increase in pension contributions, no increase in the pension age and no reduction in pension benefits.

In a statement, the union said: “HMRC and DWP are at the heart of the political debate about public spending and the workers involved provide invaluable public services - with HMRC collecting and administering the taxes that fund all other public services and our welfare state that are currently being undermined by the Tory-led government.

“Successive years of cuts in HMRC have left the department unable to properly tackle the estimated £120 billion lost every year through tax evasion, avoidance and non-collection. And, despite high unemployment, DWP has cut 20,000 staff since May 2010 and the government is now threatening to cut even more support for people entitled to benefits.”

PCS north east regional secretary Simon Elliott said: “We already have higher levels of unemployment and child poverty than the rest of the UK, and have lost 20,000 public sector jobs in the last year alone.

“The last thing the region needs is the withdrawal of even more face to face public services.”

The union’s Yorkshire and Humber regional secretary Juanita Charles added: “Like their colleagues across the civil service, our members in these two key departments refuse to stand by and watch while the government cuts their living standards, their jobs and the vital public services they provide.”

A Department of Works and pensions spokesman said of the action on Monday: “We have measures in place to deliver and maintain a service for the public.

“We expect everyone who is entitled to receive pensions or benefits will receive them. Our top priority is to make payments to our customers and benefit claimants and the rolling strike action will not prevent us from doing so.

A spokesman for HMRC said the department was “disappointed” by the decision to take strike action and added that remaining staff were “doing everything possible to maintain services to the public.”