Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Strike Likely to Hit Benefit Payments

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Strike Likely to Hit Benefit Payments

Article excerpt

Byline: By Megan Bolam

Child Tax payments and other benefit payment look set for disruption from today as thousands of North civil servants take strike action over pay.

Around 15,000 workers are expected to stay away from work, causing major disruption and even closure at JobCentres and benefit offices across the region.

People receiving Child Tax Credit payments will be hit by the strikes by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) staff who handle tax credit inquiries at the Longbenton centre.

The strikes were originally called by the Public and Commercial Services' Union (PCS) last month but were suspended when the DWP put forward a new pay offer.

The package included a 2.95 pc increase in top-level salaries and a pounds 100 one-off payment to all staff.

But the PCS yesterday accused the DWP - the biggest department in Whitehall - of offering "below-inflation" pay rates and failing to negotiate on a performance development scheme. General secretary Mark Serwotka said: "I'm very disappointed that we have had to take strike action to defend members' interests. However, civil servants are simply no longer prepared to accept poverty wages.

"We have far too many members administering government benefits that they also have to claim just to scrape together a living.

"I call on ministers in all the departments involved to step in and release the money to resolve this dispute."

While union leaders warned of possible disruption today, a spokesman for the DWP said he was confident services in the North-East would continue to operate.

The spokesman said: "We are very disappointed the union decided to call the strikes even though a revised pay offer has been made.

"Our main concern is to make sure our service to customers continues over the next two days."

The row broke out after the DWP announced pay rises which would have seen some workers picking up an increase of just 2. …

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