By Claire West
The biggest co-ordinated public sector strike for a generation has been well supported across the UK with many courts, airports, jobcentres and tax offices closed or severely disrupted.
PCS members have joined three other unions holding national strikes over pensions — the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Union of Teachers and the University and College Union. In some parts of the country council workers are also on strike over cuts.
Early indications show that 90% of PCS members in the Department for Work pensions are out on strike with many jobcentres severely disrupted and Sunderland jobcentre closed. Revenue and Customs workers have been out in force, with initial feedback suggesting 85% of HMRC staff across the UK have stayed away from work. Home Office reps indicate it is the best supported strike they have known, with many buildings in Liverpool closed or services severely affected. All national museums have been closed to the public in Wales. Crown, county and magistrates' courts across the UK are being disrupted.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This is the best supported strike we’ve ever had. The government made a lot of the fact that after the strike ballot it was clear civil servants didn’t support strike action, but today we can see that they have voted with their feet and sent a clear message to the government that they will not tolerate these attacks on their hard-earned pensions rights and will fight the cuts that threaten to devastate our communities and jobs.
"It’s time for the government to engage properly; it has shown it is unwilling to move on any of the central issues that public sector workers will have to work up to eight years longer, thousands of jobs are at stake, lower pensions are set to cost three times as much, and pay is frozen while inflation soars. The change to pensions indexation to CPI will have a huge impact for many on post-retirement pension increases.
"A DWP worker on £16,000 will lose about £150,000 over 20 years of retirement.
"There should not be an equality of misery when it comes to pensions, the government is involved in a race to the bottom. "Pensions are affordable and the cost is falling. This government is forcing some of the most vulnerable people in our society to pay for a crisis that was not of their making. "There is an alternative to the government’s cuts to invest in public services, grow the economy and close the £120 billion tax gap."