Darling promises zero tolerance on violence against benefits staff

Work
and Pensions Secretary Alistair Darling has promised a zero-tolerance approach
on violent behaviour towards Benefit Agency staff in a bid to prevent
industrial action.

The
Public and Commercial Services Union is to ballot over 60,000 members about strike
action this week concerning the use of open-plan offices without
staff-protecting screen dividers.

Around
2,300 employees from 57 Benefit Agency offices are already on strike over the
use of protective screens.

Darling’s
proposals include trained security guards and CCTV cameras and pop-up screens
could also be piloted in some offices.

The
PCS welcomes the security proposals, but believes that they do not go far
enough.

Mark
Serwotka, general secretary at PCS, said, "They are not the same as a
screen to protect staff from physical pressure.

"CCTV
cameras are no protection for staff – all they do is help apprehend after the
assault."  

By Paul Nelson

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