Thousands join public sector strike in Gwent
2:30pm Wednesday 20th March 2013 in News
ALMOST 2,700 civil servants across Gwent went on strike today in a row over pay, pensions and working conditions.
Staff in the Office for National Statistics, the Newport passport office, Department for Work and Pensions offices and Jobcentres among other civil servants joined the walkout, while Caerleon's National Roman Legion Museum and Blaenavon's Big Pit were both shut.
Most of 2,700 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) in Gwent took part, according to the union, while many members of the National Assembly for Wales declined to cross the picket lines in Cardiff.
Most of yesterday's business in the legislature was cancelled, and the Welsh Conservatives called for AMs not attending the Senedd to give up a day's pay.
The union warned that it isn't a one-day protest and is the start of a rolling programme of action, with a dispute over pay and pensions set to continue.
PCS Wales' Darren Williams said many joined walkouts at the passport office, with 90 per cent of staff staying away, and at the DWP contact centre in Newport.
He said: "We are using the fact it’s budget day to draw attention to our concerns as the situation of our members is a consequence of the government's austerity drive with job cuts, cuts in pay and terms and conditions.
"The government won't even talk to us about these concerns. We have been forced into this position to take action."
John Griffiths, AM for Newport East, was among the Labour AMs who refused to cross picket lines at the Assembly yesterday.
He told the Argus that he was working yesterday, both out of his constituency office and on ministerial duties.
He called the Tory call for a pay cut "shabby politicking" and said PCS have a strong case: "I very much respect people's right to strike and right to picket."
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude condemned the strike as "futile, counterproductive and irresponsible”.
He said: "The course of action chosen by PCS benefits no one, but threatens services people rely on, at a time when we should all be working together to support growth and build the economy."