Staff at Merseyside and Halton job centres began a three-day strike yesterday, Wednesday.
The workers, from 29 offices, are fighting government plans to make 28 percent of cuts to the centres which are part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Lisa McManus is branch chair of Merseyside North PCS union. She told Socialist Worker, “Our strike has been really well supported by members, but also by the public. They understand that we need the staff to deliver the services they’re relying on.”
Most offices have offered a very limited service – if any at all – and closed by lunch time.
“In Bootle a manager had to announce to people who were waiting that there was a strike because the service was so affected”, Lisa continued.
Around 70 striking PCS members and their supporters rallied in Liverpool city centre on Thursday.
Fran Heathcote PCS DWP President pledged support for the strike and said, 'It is time DWP Management realised they can not make 28 percent cuts to services and get away with it'
Morag Reid from the Unite union’s Wirral Community branch said ' We stand side by side with you'.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka described the strike as being in the best traditions of the trade union movement saying 'This is not a selfish strike but a strike on behalf of the people of Merseyside' adding that, 'If you win it will give heart to all those fighting the cuts'
Speaking about what’s next, Lisa said “We’ll see what management are saying. We’ll take a decision once all four union branches have discussed it together. We shouldn’t be giving up this fight.”
The strike is not just about defending jobs, but also about defending the service.
Staff shortages in job centres caused one client to tell Lisa, “Getting an appointment with you is like getting an appointment with the Queen.”
“How can we get people off the unemployment register without workers to help them? It’s as though this government are picking on the most vulnerable to pay for the crisis.”
Rush messages of support to strikers through the DWP group office, firstname.lastname@example.org