Action could hit courts, Jobcentre and tax office

1st June 2011

By Adam Kula, Swindon Advertiser

HUNDREDS of civil servants in Swindon could walk out on strike later this month.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are said to be “fed up” with Government cuts and have begun a ballot for industrial action.

Not only are we on a pay freeze but they’re about to say we’ll have to make bigger contributions to our pensions, so that’ll be effectively a pay cut.”

– Andy Parsons

The PCS has members in Swindon’s Court Service, the research councils, the HM Revenue and Customs office in Farnsby Street, and the town’s Jobcentre.

It is not known exactly how many members the PCS has in the town, but the union said it is “several hundred”.

Andy Parsons, 48, is secretary of the PCS’ environmental research council branch, based in Swindon.

Mr Parsons, from Goddard Avenue, Old Town, said: “Not only are we on a pay freeze but they’re about to say we’ll have to make bigger contributions to our pensions, so that’ll be effectively a pay cut.

Most people are really quite sick of the Government. The financial crisis we’re in was created by the bankers. They’re still getting their bonuses but it’s public sector staff, like teachers and health employees, having a pay freeze.

Workers are fed up being the scapegoats for the financial crisis the bankers got us into.”

He said he was “confident” of the vote being favour of a strike, and that any action would cause disruption, especially to those people using the Jobcentre.

The ballot papers were posted out last week, and the vote closes on June 15. A result will be announced a couple of days later.

If it is a ‘Yes’, then the planned day of action will be on Thursday, June 30. The law then allows workers to take another four days of strike action in the wake of the initial walk-out.

This could snowball because the town’s teaching unions are also running a similar ballot at the same time.

If the vote comes back in favour of action, members of the teaching unions would also go on strike on the same day.

The Department for Work and pensions, which runs the Jobcentre, said it could not comment until the results were known.

But Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “It is obviously disappointing that the PCS leadership has decided to ballot its members.

But the vote cannot deter us from continuing with the ongoing union talks about how to achieve the changes that are necessary in the present financial climate and we continue to hope that industrial action will not take place.

The Government believes – and it is an approach that is shared by the majority of other unions who are committed to putting the interests of their members above all else – that it is through frank and open discussion and maximum engagement that we can seek to avoid a situation where members feel their only option is to take industrial action.”

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