Headlines: January 17th, 2002

The delivery of change across central government is being slowed down by staff who feel aggrieved at the way modernization is affecting them. Pay and working conditions are at the center of disputes where the Public and Commercial Services Union is challenging management.Last week 3.300 senior civil servants accepted a new pay system which will give extra rewards for success, but leave the poor perfomers facing little or no pay rise – see Publicnet Briefing 11 January. Staff in lower grades are much less willing to accept this change. For the first time in its 34 year history staff at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s office voted to strike after rejecting a pay offer that does not guarantee everyone reaching the top level of their pay scales. The staff are based in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. In a ballot there was an overwhelming vote for a series of monthly one-day strikes to be combined with other industrial action.

Staff in the Inland Revenue are engaged in a long running campaign against changes to the pay system. They have re-launched a strategy to break links between performance and pay and made a claim for all staff to reach the maximum of the pay scale within 5 years. They want an end to individual performance pay and aim to prevent the introduction of team pay. This re-launch follows a 70% vote in support of the strategy, but a large majority were opposed to strike action.

Staff at the newly opened Jobcentre Plus Pathfinder office in Birmingham took strike action in protest at the removal of safety screens which protect them from violent customers. 60,000 staff in Jobcentres and benefits offices across England, Scotland and Wales will hold a 48 hour strike, on Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 January, after the failure of talks to resolve this escalating dispute over safety. The new Jobcentre Plus offices
provide well furnished surroundings for confidential interviews and seek to change the culture of the ‘benefits queue’. Public and Commercial Services union members believe that their fears over safety are being ignored and they feel that proposals to increase the number of security guards and install additional CCTV cameras are inadequate