Headlines: January 18th, 2006

The Public and Commercial Services Union has called a two day strike in the Department of Work and Pensions for the 26 and 27 January in protest at job cuts. As a result of the report produced by Sir Peter Gershon former Head of the Office for Government Commerce, the Department is due to reduce staffing by a further 30,000 posts. The staff has already been cut by 15,000. The Gershon report recommended that by 2007/08 central government should make annual savings of 8b pounds and that local government and the health service each contribute some 6.4m pounds annually.In the report ‘Releasing Resources to the Front Line – Independent Review of Public Sector Efficiency’, published in July 2004, the Department of Work and Pensions was singled out for praise. Although across the public sector there had been a widespread failure to restructure processes to reduce paper handling, the Department had succeeded where others failed to tread. The cost of processing a payment had been reduced from 1 pound to 2p.

The 48 hour stoppage will hit Jobcentres, benefit offices, pension centres and the Child Support Agency across England, Scotland and Wales. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union said: “Strike action is not a step we take lightly. But against a backdrop of the DWP refusing to acknowledge the damage being wrought by job cuts, our members will take action to defend the services they deliver. Unless the Department wake up and halt the job cuts programme and look objectively at staffing levels there is a real danger that some of the most disadvantaged in society will be let down and no longer get the hand up they need.”