Jobcentre staff vote to strike over safety

Benefits offices
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Thousands of jobcentre and benefit office staff voted to go on strike over plans to remove security screens from their workplace.

The number of violent threats and attacks on staff doubled to more than 5,000 last year and workers fear the removal of the screens from the new-style jobcentres will leave them particularly exposed.

With more than 2,000 staff already on strike, members of the Public and Commercial Services union backed industrial action yesterday by 16,770 to 14,659, a majority of 53 per cent on a turnout of 50 per cent.

Union leaders will decide today where and when to implement the strike. Workers will be asked to support five days of industrial action every month until the dispute is settled.

Yesterday, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Alistair Darling, said: "This is a pointless dispute that is damaging to staff and customers. We will continue to do all we can to maintain benefit payments but a national strike will hit vulnerable people. The union must know this will not be a pain-free dispute."

A spokesman for the PCS said: "We are very sorry for any impact on the public but it could all be avoided if Alistair Darling's senior management would get into serious talks."