A trade union claimed 200,000 civil servants caused widespread disruption to public services yesterday as they began a two-day strike – but the notion was rejected by the Government last night. The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said court sittings were cancelled, Jobcentres could offer only limited services, border controls at ports and airports were disrupted and passport appointments were delayed.
It claimed there was "solid support" among its members for a 48-hour walkout in protest at cuts to redundancy pay. Picket lines were mounted outside government offices across the country and at the House of Commons. But the Cabinet Office insisted that only 81,000 PCS members were on strike and 85 per cent of civil servants were working normally, with all Jobcentres and benefits offices open, border entry points normal and court services maintained. HM Coastguard said only 15 staff of 1,227 were on strike.
Tessa Jowell, the Cabinet Office Minister, said a "fair" redundancy package had been agreed by five out of six unions – the GMB, Prospect, Unite, FDA, and Prison Officers' Association. The new cap on redundancy pay brought the civil service in line with the rest of the public sector, Ms Jowell insisted, saying: "We have made extraordinary efforts to make sure the lowest paid are protected."