DWP strike: staff in Stockport and Bolton on strike as nine days of industrial action in pay dispute continues

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff and members of the PCS trade union have walked out in a dispute over pay.
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Staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are on strike as nine days of industrial action in Greater Manchester continue.

Employees at the Stockport Contact Centre and Bolton Benefits Centre walked out on Thursday (9 February) at the start of nine days of industrial action at the two sites. The PCS trade union has called a total of 20 days of strike action across the North West in February and early March in a wide-ranging dispute taking in poor pay, pensions, redundancy terms and job security.

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The DWP has claimed it is not possible to meet the union’s demands. However, the trade union wrote to prime minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday seeking talks to bring an end to the long-running dispute.

When is the strike taking place and why?

DWP employees in Stockport and Bolton are taking strike action on the following days; Thursday 9 February, Friday 10 February and Saturday 11 February and then from Monday 13 February through to Saturday 18 February. Around 500 DWP employees in Greater Manchester are involved in the industrial action.

As part of the same dispute staff at four jobcentres in Merseyside are also taking industrial action on 20 days, with the strikes lasting until 3 March.

A picket line was in place on Thursday 9 February in Bolton as the strikes got under way.

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The PCS said the walk-outs were part of the union’s escalating national dispute with the DWP over low pay, pensions, the terms of redundancy and job security for employees. The strike will affect people claiming Universal Credit, but the DWP said benefits payments are made automatically and people will continue to receive their money.

The union said its lowest-paid members at the DWP earn just £21,000 a year and are only getting a pay rise in April, months into the cost of living crisis, because that is when the national minimum wage is going up.

What has been said about the strike action?

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members are absolutely livid at being at the bottom of the heap when it comes to pay.

“They worked tirelessly through the pandemic, delivering Universal Credit to millions, yet find themselves treated with disdain by the same government that clapped them a few short years ago.

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“They have had enough of poverty pay and being taken for granted, which is why they’re taking extended action. Ministers can stop the strike tomorrow if they put some money on the table.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We greatly value the work of our staff but the PCS union’s demands would cost the country an unaffordable £2.4 billion at a time when our focus must be on bringing down inflation to ease the pressure on households across the country.

 “Benefits, the state pension and child maintenance payments are paid automatically and people who rely on that support will continue to receive it.”

The PCS added on Thursday afternoon (9 February) that Mr Serwotka had written to the prime minister Rishi Sunak asking for talks to bring an end to the large-scale industrial action being taken by Government employees. He said other trade unions had been successful in negotiating with public sector employees and the DWP staff deserved similar.

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Mr Serwotka said: “We stand ready to negotiate a settlement to this dispute but there does not appear to be any willingness on the part of the government to seriously engage in such negotiations.

“This is an unacceptable state of affairs and your own workforce deserves better. We are now seeking a meeting with you to discuss these matters and to hopefully move things towards a resolution.”