Jobcentre security guards in GMB strike. Photo: Brum SP
Jobcentre security guards in GMB strike. Photo: Brum SP

Jonathan Osako, Birmingham North

Jobcentre security guards, organised in the GMB union, are taking five days of strike action in May for a pay rise. Attending picket lines in Birmingham, workers expressed dissatisfaction with the wages they receive doing what they consider a high-risk job with inadequate support and equipment.

Previously employed by the government, security tasks in jobcentres across the country are contracted to private company G4S, which has a net worth of over £2 billion. Meanwhile, security guards are paid the national minimum wage of £11.44 per hour and work six days a week with little to no flexibility in their work schedule. Security guards handle verbal and sometimes physical abuse caused by the misdirected anger of those in need, facing the consequences of Tory attacks on benefits.

With the increasing cost of living, the union is demanding the company raise salaries to £12 an hour. On 7 May, more than 40 security guards from jobcentres across Birmingham joined the strike, many of them striking for the first time in their life. The lack of security staff caused the jobcentres to shut. Because G4S didn’t give workers an improved offer, strikes on 8 and 13 May had even more workers participating. Instead of contracting such tasks to companies like G4S, the only long-term solution is for the government to directly employ the workers as civil servants, and pay them a real living wage.


Alex Moore, Plymouth Socialist Party spoke to Phil and Paul on the picket line:

“G4S is only a brand name – the real owner is a massive North American company called Allied Universal. But we negotiate with G4S who say the DWP won’t increase funding. But between G4S and the DWP it would cost less than £3 million to end this dispute. We were offered 23p an hour increase but we rejected this in January in an indicative ballot and then returned a 94% vote for industrial action.”

During the conversation, claimants turned up for appointments and asked the pickets what was going on. No one from the DWP had told them their appointment had been cancelled. But none of them took their frustration out on the pickets. One claimant who worked in the NHS said: “I’m behind you all the way. Give me a leaflet”.