Hundreds of Department for Work and Pensions staff will go on strike for two weeks over Christmas.
More than 200 PCS union members working in four DWP offices – three in Liverpool and one in Doncaster – will walk out on select dates from 19 to 31 December.
The first DWP centres to strike are: Doncaster back-of-house; Toxteth Jobcentre; Liverpool Duke Street Jobcentre; and Liverpool City Jobcentre.
The strikes are part of a national wave of action set to take place in up to 126 departments and agencies over pay, redundancy and pension terms and job security concerns.
PCS said this initial phase of strike action "is being targeted at areas that will have a significant impact on employers’ operations and the government". Further targeted action at DWP "is likely to follow", the union said.
Some DWP officials have been going without showers, heating, food and socialising and relying on foodbanks and benefits to survive amid soaring inflation, rising energy bills and “paltry” wage increases, the union revealed earlier this year.
Three months ago, PCS unveiled a 156-page dossier detailing members’ struggles coping with the cost-of-living crisis, which it delivered to DWP’s London headquarters.
The stories in the document told of civil servants cutting down drastically on energy use and commuting costs, sometimes at the expense of their health; having difficulty sleeping; visiting foodbanks; running into overdrafts buying essentials; and turning to parents and payday loans to buy childrens’ clothes and other basics.The union accused the department of “failing to offer any meaningful support”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members have been plunged into ever-increasing depths of poverty.
“They shouldn’t have to rely on foodbanks to feed their children or be forced to make the choice of either working from home because the journey into work is too expensive or working in the cold under blankets because the cost of heating is too expensive.
“It’s a disgrace that our members in the DWP – the government’s own employees – are claiming the benefits they pay out to others.
“The government is in the position to stop these strikes by putting money on the table, and we call on them to do so.”
In the DWP, 87.6% of PCS members voted for strike action on a 50.4% turnout, just meeting the required legal threshold of 50%.
The union announced the results of its ballot last month and confirmed its first walkouts last week. PCS served notice on 29 November of a month of strike action across 250 Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and Rural Payments Agency sites. Four days later, the union announced twelve days of National Highways action over Christmas and the New Year.
PCS said it will announce further dates in other departments, including the Home Office, over the course of the next few weeks.
The union has said it will pay officials at their normal full rate of pay while they are on strike.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We greatly value the work of our staff but the PCS union’s demands would cost the country an unaffordable £2.4 billion when the focus must be on bringing down inflation to ease the burden on households, protect the vulnerable and rebuild our economy.
“Benefits, the state pension and child maintenance payments are paid automatically and people who rely on that support will continue to receive it.”