Civil servants strike in job cuts protest

Civil servants will hold their largest 24-hour strike in 10 years today in a bitter protest at government plans to axe 100,000 jobs. The walkout will disrupt Jobcentres, benefit offices, Customs & Excise, driving tests, tax collection and libraries across the UK.

More than 200,000 workers, including staff from the departments of Work and Pensions, Education, Health and the Home Office - are expected to picket government offices and rallies will be held up and down the country. About 160 government departments and agencies will be affected by the strike, which could be followed by further action if the row is not resolved.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU) CSU, said: "Members are taking a stand against arbitrary cuts which will decimate services we all rely on from the cradle to the grave.

"The people on strike today are not faceless bureaucrats or a bowler-hatted Sir Humphrey, but people who collect the taxes to build hospitals and schools, get the unemployed into work and protect our shores from illegal contraband ... Cuts on this scale will do nothing to improve service delivery."

He added that workers also faced the threat of having to work longer before retirement.

Union officials, including Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, and the Unison leader, Dave Prentis, planned to join one of the biggest rallies in central London at lunchtime. Mr Crow said: "The Government has not yet made clear exactly how it intends to axe 100,000 jobs but such a huge cut must have a serious effect on the delivery of vital public services."

Staff at the GCHQ communications centre are not allowed to go on strike but they sent a message of support and accused political parties of competing to "devalue" the Civil Service. A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: "Our decisions mean more police, more teachers, more doctors and more nurses ... We hope to continue to discuss this with the unions in a constructive way."