GOVERNMENT employees in Wigan downed tools in a strike protesting about severe cuts to public sector budgets, pay and pensions.
Around 1,000 staff from job centres, tax advice centres and benefits centres walked out as part of a week-long programme of rolling strikes called by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union.
Employees from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) joined picket lines across the borough, including at the Makerfield Benefit Centre in Bryn, four jobcentres and two advice centres, before travelling to Manchester for a rally.
The strikes also formed part of the union’s opposition to the Government’s austerity programme, which campaigners say is increasing inequality and doing little to improve unemployment.
PCS DWP Wigan branch chair, Chris Holmes, said: “Public services are being destroyed and public sector workers driven into poverty, all in the name of austerity and improving the economy.
“It’s clear this isn’t working. The rich are getting richer whilst workers in the DWP and HMRC have suffered pay restraint and pension deductions leading to a 20 per cent loss in income. The Government won’t talk so we have to take action.”
A spokesmen for HMRC and the DWP said the departments were disappointed by the decision to take industrial action, and were concentrating on ensuring services to the public were maintained throghout the current period of industrial strike.