Jobcentre Plus strike 'solidly supported'

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A strike by workers at Jobcentre Plus call centres was "solidly supported" today, with around 2,400 staff joining the walkout, union leaders said today.

The Public and Commercial Services union said 85% of its members at the seven sites took action on the first day of the 48-hour stoppage.

Picket lines were mounted at the centres in Bristol, Glasgow, Newport in south Wales, Norwich, Makerfield near Wigan, Manchester and Sheffield.

The union has accused Jobcentre Plus of having an "obsession" with hitting call centre targets at the expense of providing a good quality public service.

Jane Aitchison, the union's Department for Work and Pensions group president, said: "Unnecessary targets not only put unacceptable pressure on our members, they mean callers are not receiving the level of service they deserve. When people call us about their benefits, they're not talking about their telephone line, it's about their lifeline."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The level of support for today's strike shows the strength of feeling among our members. Jobcentre Plus management need to take note and talk to us about how to resolve this dispute."

A DWP spokesman said: "We are disappointed that some staff - only 21% across the centres - have voted to take industrial action.

"No jobs will be at risk through these changes. The contact centre staff at DWP will continue to receive good terms of employment, including generous holidays.

"We are modernising our telephone and benefit processing service. There will be no change to the way benefits are paid; however, it will mean that customers will get a better service than at present when they phone with a benefit inquiry."