JobCentre staff set to strike again over safety screen row

JobCentre
and Benefits agency staff are set for another strike after talks with the
Government over the removal of new-style safety screens broke down.

The
Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has called a 48-hour strike on 28-29
February after negotiations over the new JobCentre plus offices failed to reach
an agreement.

The
PCS says 60,000 members are ready to take industrial action over concerns about
safety in the new offices, which have no screens between staff and the public.

Mark
Serwotka, PCS general secretary elect, said he is worried about staff safety
and called on ACAS to get all sides around the table: "We are working hard
to build a solution to this dispute and are dismayed at the dismissive attitude
of management to the genuine fears of staff.

"We
regret having to take this action, but while management stalls negotiations the
attacks on staff continue week after week," he said.

However,
the move to an unscreened environment continues as the Government opened
another three Pathfinder offices.

A
spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the majority of staff
are happy with the situation and the stalemate is unnecessary: "We’ve had
reasonable proposals on the table for months and the dispute could be ended
tomorrow, but an unscreened environment is fundamental to the Pathfinder projects."

"The
last time they called a strike it was poorly supported and it was business as
usual. This is becoming an increasingly futile dispute," he added.

By Ross Wigham

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