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JOBCENTRES STRIKE FEAR.

Byline: CATHERINE JONES

JOBCENTRES and benefit offices face major disruption if union members vote to strike this month.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is balloting up to 5,000 Merseyside members on two days of strikes over pay.

The union represents civil service workers in Liverpool's county court,as well as hundreds of front line staff at Merseyside job centres and benefit offices.

Its members also include immigration office employees who process applications from asylum seekers,administration staff at Walton Prison, and workers at the Home Office premises in Bootle.

If members vote in favour of industrial action there will be two days of strikes on January 29-30.

Union spokesman Alex Flynn said today: ``There will be disruption.

``This is not a decision taken lightly to ballot for industrial action. It comes on the back of a series of pay offers being imposed that are below inflation.

``Our members in the prison service are being offered a 0.5% pay increase.

``There will be a period of time while the ballot is going on, a window of opportunity for discussions to try and avert the action. We're keen to engage with managers to try to resolve this.

``We are asking for a cost of living increase in line with inflation. The union could take that back to members and it's something we could work with.''

The members are employed through five government departments: Works and Pensions,Constitutional Affairs, the Home Office, Treasury Solicitors Office and the Prison Service.

There are at least 1,500 workers in Liverpool and hundreds more across Merseyside,Warrington and Halton who are being balloted. The results will be announced next week.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ``These are people who are low paid,delivering key front line services and in many cases in receipt of the very benefits they hand out.''
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 14, 2004
Words:309
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