Union leaders have hit back at government claims that today’s public sector strike was not well supported, insisting there was “widespread disruption” as 200,000 staff staged a walk-out in a dispute over redundancy terms.
The Cabinet Office said that 81,000 Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members were on strike, adding that 85% of civil servants were working normally.
Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell said: “Across the country, services to the public are largely unaffected – all job centres and benefits offices are open, border entry points are working normally and court services are being maintained.
“Today’s low turnout supports the view that after 18 months of negotiation and consultation, the right deal on reforming the civil service compensation scheme has been reached. The changes have already been agreed with five of the six civil service unions.”
But the PCS insisted 200,000 staff walked out with court sittings cancelled, Jobcentres offering limited services, 2,000 driving tests called off, passport appointments hit and border controls at ports and airports disrupted.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “There has been a fantastic show of support for the strike action today with civil and public servants walking out across the UK.
“The government needs to stop burying its head in the sand and wake up to the scale of anger that has been generated by their plans to cut jobs on the cheap.”
The dispute centres around proposed changes to the civil service compensation scheme that will see redundancy packages cut from up to three years’ pay to as little as 24 weeks’ pay to mirror private sector levels and to save £500m over three years.