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From The Socialist newspaper, 23 August 2017

PCS: strikes to defend jobcentres

Job Centre Plus, photo Helen Cobain (Creative Commons)

Job Centre Plus, photo Helen Cobain (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Walkout to save Whitley Bay office

Two days of strike action took place on 17 and 18 August organised by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), that represents staff in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), against the closure of the Whitley Bay Jobcentre.

One of 78 set to close, the plan is to merge facilities which will result in the inconvenient relocation of staff and clients to North Shields. This jobcentre is also the last of its kind that offers drop-in appointments for vulnerable customers.

These ill-thought-out plans are part of a much larger nationwide shake-up taking place, much like the nightmarish NHS 'sustainability and transformation plan' cuts, but for the civil service.

The strike action followed a demonstration on 12 August where DWP staff, alongside over 100 campaigners, marched and rallied at the jobcentre.

Those involved described how the closure will have a devastating impact upon the most vulnerable members of the community.

PCS DWP president Fran Heathcote has urged the government to enter into a genuine consultation over this issue: "It's not about how it affects a couple of civil servants. It's about taking away services vital to the local community."

North Tyneside council had offered to let jobcentre staff use one of its own offices in Whitley Bay, but the government has refused.

The action struck a chord in the local community to such a degree that a local shop turned up on the picket line with bags of hot pies.

Locals and service users readily accepted flyers, signed the petitions and honked their horns in support as they drove by.

North Tyneside Socialist Party

Sheffield: Eastern Avenue strike

Having already taken eleven days of strike action against the planned closure of their jobcentre, 50 staff, members of PCS at Sheffield's Eastern Avenue office, are now on strike for a fortnight (14-27 August). Their determined action is to keep a local jobcentre open to serve the local community. With 800 job losses nationally now confirmed by the DWP, more offices like Whitley Bay (see above) are balloting for industrial action and PCS will continue to campaign to defeat these closure and redundancy plans.

Alistair Tice, Sheffield Socialist Party

Striking to save Hoylake jobcentre

From a PCS union press release

PCS members at Hoylake jobcentre on the Wirral will be taking strike action on Friday 25 August in an attempt to save the office which closes the same day.

The closure of Hoylake jobcentre from 25 August comes as part of the DWP's nationwide office closure programme. There are over 100 offices at risk of closure altogether, many by March 2018, with over 800 members of staff at risk of redundancy.

The jobcentre in Hoylake has been an important part of the local community for over 20 years, providing an important service to those claiming benefits and seeking employment. Although a small office, with only seven staff working there, those who use the service are now deeply worried at what it means for them.

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