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Cumbrian civil servants take part in Budget Day strike

Thousands of Cumbrian civil servants today joined a national Budget Day strike over pay, conditions and job cuts.

Civil servant strike photo
Action is being taken in Carlisle today

The action is the latest escalation in a dispute that involves workers at numerous government departments such as the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) in Carlisle, driving test centres and job centres in east and west Cumbria.

The strikers are also fighting job cuts at tax offices, which union officials say will lead to the loss of 18 posts across Cumbria.

Plans include the closure of tax office enquiry centres in Penrith, Carlisle, Whitehaven and Dumfries.

The Cabinet Office described the strike, expected to involve 250,000 workers, as “futile”.

Union members and fellow union activists across Cumbria were standing on picket lines in Carlisle.

Outside the RPA building in the city, the protestors included Jan Foster, a member of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

She said: “Our terms and conditions are being eroded away.

“I’ve certainly noticed a difference: how all my bills are going up while my pay has been frozen. It’s making life more difficult.

“George Osborne should think about ordinary people in his Budget because it’s ordinary people who are being hit the hardest.”

The protestors included RMT union official and former Carlisle mayor Craig Johnston, who said: “I’m here to support my colleagues in the PCS union defend their jobs and their pensions.

“People are struggling financially - not to pay for luxury items but to pay to put food on the table.”

David Niven, chairman of the PCS union branch at the RPA in Carlisle, said: “Since the coalition Government came in, we’ve had a two year pay freeze.

“The Government has also put a one per cent cap on the pay of public servants, though inflation has been running way above that.

“In real terms, we’ve seen our pay reduced by 20 per cent and we have also had an attack on public sector pensions.

“They’re basically getting people to work longer for less.

“Last year we had the first instalment of three pension contribution increases.”

Mr Niven said the Government’s squeeze on public spending was depressing consumer demand in the economy, which he fears may now be heading towards a triple dip recession.

He added: “What George Osborne should be using his budget to tackle corporate tax evasion,which costs this country £120 billion a year.

“He shouldn’t be attacking the pay and conditions of civil servants who mostly earn below the national average wage.”

Fellow PCS union officer Garry Humphrey, on the picket line outside Stocklund House in Carlisle, where tax office staff work, said the cuts were an “ill thought-out cut to public services”.

He compared the move to the Government’s spare room tax, saying it would hit society’s most vulnerable.

Mr Humphrey said: “This includes the elderly, the less literate or less articulate people in our communities for whom face-to-face contact is a basic and essential service.”

The union said that 62,000 civil service jobs have already been lost since the Coalition Government came to power.

The Cabinet Office said yesterday that nobody would benefit from the strike.

A spokesman said: “Rigorous contingency plans are in place across all sectors to ensure that all affected public services operate as effectively as possible.

“The course of action benefits no one but threatens services people rely on at a time when we should all be working together."

Have your say

The 'anti-civil servants' on this forum make my blood boil!
I joined the civil service when T&Cs were not that good and pay was poor. Our union has fought for years to get us better conditions and because of a strong union and moreso it's members, we eventually got some T&Cs which were good and attracted people to work in the civil service.

The civil service was at this time seen as a 'job for life' and one that has prospects and good working conditions. That has changed since the ConDem Government have imposed their 'hatchet' style approach.

The do not wish to negotiate with unions or it's members, nor does it accept that reducing our pay in real terms will impact local businesses and the economy as a whole.

I have to say as a parent struggling to put food on the table and because I work I have to also pay for child care (because I do not scrounge off the state - I bet a few of the comments on here are from individuals who do not even wish to be employed) I have no time for people who just wish to take sides with out bullying Government and kick a man when he is down.

I now do not spend any money in town at lunchtime and know many others who also don't. Is this good for local business? I think not, if this continues, there won't be any shops open in town as the civil service provides a large proportion of employment in this town and if this goes, our town will suffer deeply!

I WILL continue to support the action and will not be bullied by anyone, would you accept bullying by your employer? Again, I think not!

So to the individuals out there who say 'get real' etc, I hope it is your business that is now not getting my custom at lunchtimes and the reduction in spending affects you like it has me!

Posted by JP on 22 March 2013 at 14:41

isn't it a case of poor pay and conditions for a lot of private sector workers as opposed to overly generous ones in the public sector?

Posted by James on 21 March 2013 at 21:20

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It's more positive than expected but could have been better

I agree with Jamie Reed, it is all smoke and mirrors

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