Disruption as civil servants strike in redundancy row

THOUSANDS of civil servants in Edinburgh were on strike today as part of a national 48-hour stoppage which was expected to hit courts, job centres, driving tests and museums.

Tax offices, border controls and the issuing of passports were also in line to be affected by the walk-out by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union who are taking action in protest at unilateral changes to redundancy terms.

The union has warned that unless management agree to new talks, there will be further stoppages over the next month.

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Picket lines were due to be in force today at workplaces including Edinburgh Castle, museums, libraries and galleries, as well as Scottish Government offices.

However, a Jobcentre spokeswoman said it hoped to open all its centres in and around Edinburgh.

She said: "We are well prepared for the industrial action. The last few occasions when there has been a strike we have managed to keep all the centres open and we would hope to do that again."

The Scottish Parliament has cancelled all tomorrow's committee meetings as a result of the dispute.

PCS has around 300 members at Holyrood. A parliament spokeswoman said they were confident the meetings could have been staffed, but she said: "Following conveners taking soundings from their committee members, no committee meetings are taking place on Tuesday."

The union says changes to the civil service compensation scheme will see staff robbed of up to a third of their entitlements and mean loyal civil and public servants losing tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job.

The PCS ballot produced a 63.4 per cent vote in favour of strike action.

PCS Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson said the union knew some court cases were not going ahead because of the action, some driving tests had been cancelled and many other offices would not be functioning normally.

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She said: "PCS members in every part of Scotland have joined the strike to demonstrate the strength of our opposition to this attack on accrued redundancy rights. The civil service compensation scheme affects members working for UK and Scottish Government departments.

"While our battle is with the UK government, Scottish ministers must also break their silence. We stand with workers across the public sector who will not accept job cuts on the cheap."