Hundreds of public sector staff in walkout

Paul Gregory shows support with son Gabriel, three, on the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) picket at DWP Wigan branch
Paul Gregory shows support with son Gabriel, three, on the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) picket at DWP Wigan branch

DRIVING tests were abandoned and magistrates court appearances cancelled after hundreds of Wigan civil servants walked out yesterday.

The giant Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said an estimated 1,000 workers across the borough supported the one day action, which was deliberately timed to coincide with budget day.

Picket lines formed outside Wigan Job Centre in King Street, the massive Makerfield Benefits Centre at Griffin House, Leigh Job Centre plus Wigan Magistrates Court in Darlington Street.

The union will now hold a half day strike on April 5 - the end of the tax year.

Action was called by the union because the Government is expected to announce further cuts to pay and jobs with Chancellor George Osborne implementing a further increase in employee pension contributions from next month.

This, warns the PCS, will push more state employees into “working poverty”.

The Wigan branch of the PCS claim that Ministers are now steadfast on pressing ahead with “draconian” changes to pensions which will mean many people having to work longer, pay more and receive less in retirement despite “huge opposition” and lack of agreement, having already imposed cuts to civil service redundancy pay.

It said that many public sector workers had already lost “thousands of pounds” as a result of a two-year pay freeze and a one per cent pay cap.

But now the Government had announced it was “determined to rip up hard earned terms and conditions.”

Cuts to the public sector are being driven through despite the austerity measures failing to enable a recovery in the economy.

Wigan area PCS branch secretary Chris Holmes 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.

“With polls showing people are less likely to support government policies if George Osborne’s name is attached, it is clear the public have lost faith in austerity and want an alternative.”

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude condemned the strike as “irresponsible, futile and counter productive.”