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Northern Ireland civil servants in UK-wide walkouts

Northern Ireland civil servants joined a UK-wide strike yesterday in a dispute over redundancy payments.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) called the two-day action in protest over unilateral changes to redundancy terms, which it describes as an attempt to “cut jobs on the cheap”.

They are protesting against Government cuts to the civil service compensation scheme, due to take effect in April. Members say job losses in frontline services are next and caps on redundancy payments will hit low-paid workers.

Up to 2500 workers, including staff from HMRC, the courts, passport offices and the NIO joined picket lines across Northern Ireland yesterday morning. Picket lines were set up outside HMRC offices in Belfast, with a rally at the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre on Donegall Street.

Gail Matthews, an HMRC employee, said she was worried about planned tax office closures. A carer for her mother, she is concerned that redundancy payments would fall short. “If I lose my job, I need enough to sustain us while I look for another job. Otherwise I’ll be forced to claim benefits which would be a waste of public money.”

Sir Gus O’Donnell, head of the Civil Service, said the proposals followed 18 months of talks and were supported by five unions.

Janice Godrich, PCS National President, spoke at the Belfast rally. She told the Belfast Telegraph that a PCS proposal which met the savings target was rejected by civil service management. She said the five unions that supported the proposals represented “specialist grades” whose needs were met by the deal.

The industrial action is set to continue today..

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