A two-day strike against the closure of Whitley Bay jobcentre has started strongly with no staff turning up for work and good support from the local community, claimants and local businesses.
There was good support for the strikers at the jobcentre, which is due to close tomorrow (18 August), one of more than 100 local jobcentres and back-of-office sites threatened with closure. Local deli Dicksons gave 15 bags of baked goodies to the pickets and both the postman and binman refused to cross the line and drove away.
PCS is campaigning alongside local Labour MP Alan Campbell to keep the jobcentre open. We are calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to reconsider its decision and to guarantee the long-term future of vital public services in Whitley Bay. Our members at Whitley Bay voted unanimously on a 100% turnout to strike today and tomorrow (18) as a last resort to save the jobcentre.
Many staff will now have to relocate 3 miles away to North Shields and claimants face a bus journey to sign on which will cost them about £6, with a risk of sanctions if they are late. The government claims that claimants will not be out of pocket, but in truth some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the area will have to pay the extra cost of travelling to the nearest office in North Shields.
We believe closing the jobcentre will be detrimental to many unemployed and vulnerable people in the area. The closure will also affect the local economy and efforts to regenerate the town.
Many local services have already been moved out of towns like Whitley Bay, forcing the public to travel further to access vital services they need.
One striking PCS member, who has been on the picket line since 8am, said many members of the public, fellow public service workers and claimants have visited them today to show support and express disappointment at the closures.
She said: “A lot of people have shown us their support today, like us they’re really disappointed that our office couldn’t be kept open.
“We have a lot of vulnerable customers and there’s going to be more risk of sanctions, especially as many of them could use the IT facilities at our jobcentre to do their job search without an appointment, which is unlikely in North Shields as it covers a bigger geographical area and people will have less time to use computers. We have also made arrangements for more anxious customers to come in at quieter times but there will be fuller diaries in North Shields so it’s less likely that their wishes will be able accommodated.”
You are inspiring
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has sent a message of support to the members in Whitley Bay and those at Eastern Avenue jobcentre in Sheffield who started a 2-week strike on Monday (14) against the closure of the office.
"I send my solidarity to all those on strike this week in Sheffield and in Whitely Bay. Your dedication to public service and the principled issue of serving a local community is inspiring and members at Eastern Avenue and Whitely Bay jobcentres have the union’s full support," he said.
"The Eastern Avenue jobcentre is located in one of the most deprived parts of Sheffield and provides a vital service to the local community. Closing the jobcentre in Whitley Bay means that claimants will be forced to travel to North Shields, at their own cost, with a risk of sanctions if they are late. I am proud to stand with you against the government’s cynical closure of your local jobcentre and almost one in 10 jobcentres across the country.
"We will not stop in our fight against the government’s attack on unemployed, sick and disabled people, and we will continue to defend the work you do providing such a vital service to the public."
What else can you do?
- Sign our petition against the closure of Whitley Bay jobcentre
- Keep up to date with the national campaign against closures
- Support the picket lines at the jobcentre (NE26 2LY)
- Donate to the PCS Fighting Fund to support striking members.