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Daily Record
Daily Record
Emma Lawson, PA & Hannah Mackenzie Wood

Passport office staff in Scotland 'relying on food banks' as five-week strike begins

Passport Office workers in Scotland are "relying on food banks", a union representative has said as staff launch their five-week strike action today. More than 1,000 members of Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at eight sites across the UK, including Glasgow, are walking out in an escalation of an increasingly bitter dispute over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's morning programme, PCS Scotland branch secretary Andrew Bain said that "20 to 30" people had met him on the picket line at the Glasgow office. He said: "We've been offered 2 per cent but most people will only ever see 1 per cent of that. We've had two pay increases this year for our PO1 grade but that's because it would fall under minimum wage, that's just how dire it is at the Passport Office at the moment.

"We've got members of staff who are relying on benefits and food banks, members of staff who are spending their wages on their housing costs. We cannot do anything other than take this action."

He added: "We've been hearing the toots of the vehicles as they've been going past all morning as well and we've got the RMT with us and we've got solidarity with us so there seems to be quite a lot of support with us at the moment."

Mr Bain told the broadcaster membership had increased from around 186 in Glasgow when balloted for strike action to 352 at the last count and credited the "massive" increase to people being at "their wits' end".

The strike action is set to continue for five weeks. (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Questioned how members will survive the five-week strike, Mr Bain said members had paid into the levy so the union has funds available to support staff. He said he is aware it will have a "massive impact on members of the public" but that the impact on members of staff is "bigger".

Picket lines are also being mounted outside offices in Durham, Liverpool, Southport, Peterborough, London, Belfast and Newport in Wales. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to the Government calling for urgent talks in a bid to resolve the dispute.

He has accused ministers of treating its own employees differently to others in the public sector after negotiations were held with unions representing health workers and teachers. The union is stepping up strikes, with a nationwide walkout of more than 130,000 civil servants planned for April 28.

The Home Office said the Passport Office has already processed more than 2.7 million applications this year, and added that over 99.7 per cent of standard applications are being processed within 10 weeks, with the majority of those delivered to customers well under this timescale.

There are currently no plans to change official guidance which states that it takes up to 10 weeks to get a passport.

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