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Public sector strike begins

PUBLISHED: 09:15 09 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:59 30 June 2010

Public sector workers take part in the strike action outside Havenbridge House in Great Yarmouth

Public sector workers take part in the strike action outside Havenbridge House in Great Yarmouth

Thousands of public sector workers across Norfolk, including Great Yarmouth, went on strike yesterday as part of a two day protest at plans to change their redundancy terms and conditions.

Thousands of public sector workers across Norfolk, including Great Yarmouth, went on strike yesterday as part of a two day protest at plans to change their redundancy terms and conditions.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) from a range of government offices including the Department for Work and Pensions, and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were involved in the 48-hour action.

In Norwich the union said around 50 people took part in rally outside the Forum, where speakers included Green parliamentary candidate Adrian Ramsay, while representatives from other unions including Unison, the FBU, and students also turned up to show their support.

Pickets were also set up outside government buildings including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) at Baltic House, the HMRC office in Prince of Wales Road, and government offices in Thorpe St Andrew. Offices in Great Yarmouth and Dereham were also affected.

Julie Bremner, chairwoman of the PWS regional committee, said around 5,000 Norfolk based staff -around a third of the totals - took part in the strike action.

“It went reasonably well we have been genuinely surprised by the support,” she said. “People are protecting their current terms and conditions because they are concerned that if they don't it will make it a lot easier to get rid of us.

But the government insisted it was business as usual and the courts in Norwich were not affected by the strike, while all Jobcentres Plus offices remained open.

Nationally the government said that 81,000 PCS members were on strike adding that 85pc of the civil servants were working normally, but the union

Ministers said all jobcentres and benefits offices were open, border entry points were working normally and court services were being maintained, while HM Coastguard said only 15 staff of 1,227 were on strike.

An HM court service spokesman said: “No courts are closed as a result of industrial action. The majority of courts are sitting as planned and services are being maintained. While there has been some reduction in services, HMCS continuity plans are in place to minimise the impact on our customers."

But the HMRC said anyone who needed to get in touch urgently could do so, but other members of the public may prefer to wait.

“While our customers may want to delay contacting us until Wednesday when the strike is over those who need to speak to us urgently can do so as our contact centres and enquiry centres are open for business. We are able to take calls on all our aspects of our business but customers may find it takes longer than usual to get through.”

The union is protesting over changes to the civil service compensation scheme which it says will "rob' civil servants of up to a third of their entitlements - worth thousands of pounds - when they leave their jobs.

The PCS will hold a march and rally in Central London tomorrow to mark the second day of the strike.


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