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STRIKE WILL HALT BENEFIT PAYMENTS; Staff stage two-day walkout in row over security fears.

Byline: EMMA RAY

HUNDREDS of benefits claimants in Nuneaton will not be able to pick up their cash this week as Benefits Agency staff strike over violence fears.

Workers at Mill House, in Mill Walk, and the JobCentre, in Vicarage Street, will stay away from their desks on Wednesday and Thursday in protest at a proposed change to an open-plan office with no security screens.

The strike has been called by the Public and Commercial Services Union, which has 85percent membership in Nuneaton.

Nuneaton PCS steward Julian Page said: "There are big changes afoot, with a lot of investment taking place, which is great from a trade union point of view.

"There is going to be a complete overhaul of the system but part of that is that all work will take place in an open-plan office, including benefits delivery.

"At the moment, we have security screens, like those at banks, but these will be removed.

"Some people don't take bad news well and lose their temper, hitting out at staff."

Security screens were installed in the 1970s and are seen by Benefits Agency workers as essential.

Mr Page added: "We never wanted to strike but the people making the decisions will not talk to us.

"It's unfortunate that people won't be able to claim their benefits but it is a move we have to take when our staff could be left open to attack."
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 10, 2001
Words:235
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