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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Industrial action this morning

Public sector workers in West Cumbria joined an estimated 250,000 nationally to take industrial action over changes to pensions, pay and jobs.

About 350 members of staff at the Rural Payments Agency at Derwent Howe, Workington, and 280 staff from the HMRC offices at Lillyhall took part in the 24-hour action on Wednesday.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union were re-balloted about pay, jobs, pensions and terms and conditions in February.

The union hopes to see a pay increase of five per cent and flexible hours for workers.

The action was part of the union’s campaign Back the Budget Day Strike, which forms three months of action across the country.

Staff at the RPA fear they will lose their jobs as departments have already been downsized.

Thirty-five administration staff have taken voluntary redundancy and will leave in the next few weeks.

They are also being asked to pay more towards pensions and are concerned about a two year pay freeze and one per cent cap on pay.

Martin Birkett, PCS branch chairman for the RPA, said: “All we’re looking for is the Government to sit down and talk to us.”

Staff at the HMRC contact centre were concerned about the potential closure of centres in Whitehaven, Carlisle and Penrith. Trial closures are already being carried out in the North East and the Government aims to close all centres by 2014.

Angela Harrison, PCS rep for the Solway branch, said: “We’re concerned about the closures and the knock-on effect it could have on us. It is much easier for the Government to privatise contact centres and we have already had a trial of this when private company Sitel came in from February 2012 to February 2013.

“They were renowned for poor conditions and pay.

“We’re taking action today because HMRC won’t come to the table as they have previously and are not willing to speak to us.”

Staff at both sites will take part in a half-day strike on Friday, April 5.

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