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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
David Humphreys

Staff to walk out at three Liverpool job centres over festive period

Staff at three Liverpool job centres are to stage industrial action just before Christmas.

As part of a rolling programme of strike action by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, staff from three city locations will join colleagues from Doncaster in walking out on certain dates between December 19-31. Workers at Toxteth, Liverpool Duke Street and Liverpool City job centre - based in St John’s Market will strike later this month.

The three sites are the first, alongside Doncaster, to stage action nationally. A ballot was held across the PCS Union regarding pay, pensions, jobs and cuts to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme last month and with members across the civil service opting to walk out.

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Among Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff, 87.6% of members voted for strike action on a 50.4% turnout, above the required legal threshold of 50%. The union said its initial phase of strike action is being targeted at areas that will have “a significant impact on employers’ operations and the government.”

The union said it was currently finalising details of members' meetings, rallies and picket lines and with details to follow. The walk out at Toxteth job centre comes amid an ongoing battle by staff and the community to keep the site open.

In three months, it is expected almost 200 jobs will be moved as the DWP relocates staff from Toxteth and St John’s Market job centres to a city centre location. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS Union visited the Toxteth centre in September while in the city to attend the Labour Party conference.

An online petition has already been launched by the union, who said they “vehemently” opposed the closure at Toxteth. At his visit to meet members and staff, Mr Serwotka said: “Toxteth jobcentre is a vital service and our members are united with the local community in their determination to protect it.

“Removing the jobcentre and the support it provides lays bare the DWP’s complete disregard for the welfare of its staff and the public that rely on it. Enough is enough: our members and the people of Toxteth demand better.”

An emergency meeting was called at Toxteth Town Hall by PCS Union officials in a bid to fight the closure in May. Kim Johnson, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, used a debate on the business of the house in Parliament to call on the Government to debate alternative options.

Ms Johnson received a letter earlier this year from the now-former employment minister Mims Davies confirming that the Department of Work of Pensions (DWP) would seek to close both branches in the city for a new centralised location. In July, she called on the government to “stop navel gazing” and “get round the table” to protect jobs.

Alongside Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson, Ms Johnson wrote to then-DWP secretary of state Therese Coffey to reconsider the shutting down of the site. The trio said they did not “see a service delivery reason for its proposed closure”.

A spokesperson for the DWP said previously of the centre closures: “We are making use of a lease break to move Liverpool Toxteth Hyde Park House JCP staff and services to a better office just over a mile away to improve services for claimants and have a better working environment for staff – no jobs losses are expected as a result.”

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