Strike hits Norfolk public services
Jon WelchJobcentres, tax offices, coastguard stations, driving test centres, courts and prisons across the Eastern region face disruption today and tomorrow as up to 15,000 civil servants take part in a 48-hour strike.Jon Welch
Jobcentres, tax offices, coastguard stations, driving test centres, courts and prisons across the Eastern region face disruption today and tomorrow as up to 15,000 civil servants take part in a 48-hour strike.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are due to walk out in a dispute over changes to their redundancy terms.
Among the offices affected will be the Jobcentre Plus benefits centre in Mountergate, Norwich; Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, Prince of Wales Road, Norwich; the Department for Work and Pensions contact centre in Lowestoft; and Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and Office of Government Commerce, Thorpe St Andrew.
Also affected will be DVLA offices and test centres, jobcentres, magistrates and Crown courts, Ministry of Defence offices, tax offices in Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn and Norwich, Blundeston, Bure and Wayland prisons.
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The government said the changes would save �500m in taxpayers' money. Five other civil service unions have already reached agreement over the reforms, which ministers insist include "additional protection" for public sector workers on the lowest incomes and nearing retirement.
But Richard Edwards, PCS regional secretary, said: 'With civil and public service jobs increasingly at risk, this is a cynical attempt to cut jobs on the cheap which will ultimately damage the services we all rely on.
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'The cuts to the redundancy scheme will see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job.
'The government claims it cannot prevent bankers' bonuses being paid because they are contractual, but appears happy to rip up the rights of its own workforce and change the law to do so.'
He said strike action was a 'last resort', and added: 'The government needs to recognise that it can't cut jobs on the cheap and reach a negotiated settlement that protects our existing members' rights.'
Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell said: 'The changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme were agreed with five of the six Civil Service unions after 18 months of negotiation and consultation. These unions all agree with us that the resulting deal is fair for staff and taxpayers.
'This package brings the Civil Service more into line with the rest of the public sector and still offers more generous terms than much of the private sector."
'It is very disappointing that the PCS has decided to take industrial action, especially given that less than one in five of their own members voted in favour of strike action, and that, overall, this figure represents only around 10 per cent of the total Civil Service workforce.'
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has put contingency plans in place to ensure that an emergency service will be provided, but has reminded the public to take extra care whilst on the sea, beach or cliffs, and has urged boat users to think carefully about their plans.