Benefits staff stage two-day strike over safety screen row

Benefits
agency staff at over 1,500 offices around the country called a two-day strike
this week as the crisis over safety screens deepens.

More
than 60,000 members of the PCS union went on strike after the Government
re-affirmed its intention to remove safety screens in the JobCentre Plus
offices.

They
are designed to improve the service to customers by removing safety screens and
enabling staff to deal with the public in an open, face-to-face environment.

Mark
Serwotka, general secretary elect of the PCS, claimed that benefits staff
suffer over 5,000 verbal and physical assaults a year and their safety concerns
are being ignored.

He
said, "Our members are holding their first ever national strike because
JobCentre Plus management are refusing to take safety concerns seriously."

However,
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Alistair Darling said he intended to
add to the 53 pathfinder offices, calling them a once in a lifetime opportunity
to improve service. The majority of staff are positive about the changes and
only 40,000 of the 93,000 had heeded the call for industrial action, he said.

Darling
added, "These figures demonstrate the futility of the strike. It’s time to
end it once and for all and stop the disruption to the payment of
benefits."

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