Hundreds of Sunderland civil servants walk out on strike

Staff from Waterview Park in Washington on the final picket of the day.
Staff from Waterview Park in Washington on the final picket of the day.
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CIVIL servants across Wearside manned picket lines and warned: “Listen to us or we will strike again.”

Members of the PCS union took industrial action on the day the Chancellor delivered his Budget, as a bitter dispute with the Government over pay, pensions and working conditions rumbles on.

The union argues its requests for talks have fallen on deaf ears and has planned further industrial action in the coming months.

Gary Clark, who works for HM Revenue and Customs, at Water View Park in Washington, said about 1,500 members of staff had walked out.

Some 75 per cent of the 500 workers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) building at Durham House also went on strike, according to union representative Steven Swainston.

Workers also took to picket lines at Gilbridge House and a contact centre at Sunderland Enterprise Park early yesterday morning, before making their way to Newcastle to join a regional demonstration.

Mr Clark said: “We are looking to protect jobs, pay, pensions and working conditions.

“Unfortunately, the Government won’t talk to us about this. They have just said ‘this is what we are doing and this is when we are doing it’, so we had no choice but to do this.”

Mr Swainston added: “We are frustrated at not being listened to. They talk about us all being in this together, but we have had below-inflation pay rises for three years, and we are suffering as a result of that.

“It means we are suffering far beyond our ability to pay for it.

“Today, I’ve seen the lowest numbers crossing the picket lines in years, and a lot of people expressed their support for us.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has promised further action to come.

He said: “We will quickly follow up our budget day strike with a walkout on April 5 and step up our campaigning for the Government to take serious action against wealthy tax dodgers.”

The DWP confirmed all Jobcentres in Sunderland remained open yesterday and all automated payments to jobseekers and pensioners went through without disruption.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: “I would like to thank the committed civil servants who turned up to work today and delivered essential services.

“We are grateful for their dedication.

“The majority of key public services have remained open and our rigorous contingency plans have worked well.”