Staff at Sheffield job centre set to walk out over proposed closure

Campaigners at a previous protest against plans to close the Eastern Avenue job centre.
Campaigners at a previous protest against plans to close the Eastern Avenue job centre.
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Staff at a Sheffield job centre are set to walk out for five days from tomorrow in protest at its proposed closure.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union at the Eastern Avenue job centre, Manor Top will walk out tomorrow in the second planned strike this month.

This comes after workers walked out for a one-day strike on June 2, when they were supported on the picket line outside the office by around 45 members and reps.

Office rep Jamie Godfrey said, “We have asked the DWP for further talks but they have refused. Our members remain determined to fight to defend the service we provide in this community.”

The Eastern Avenue job centre is one of 78 the Government is planning to close across the country.

A rally is due to be held in support of the campaign at the Manor Estate Social Club at 7pm tomorrow evening, when PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka is due to speak.

He said: "These plans need to be halted, along with all the other closures across the country.

"These proposed cuts, forcing claimants to travel further, are not only unfair but undermine support to get them back to work.

"These plans show a contempt for people trying to get back into work and the staff who work in Sheffield and other job centres.

"We will vigorously fight any attempt to force Department for Work and Pensions workers out of their jobs. Our message is clear, listen to staff and the local community, stop the cuts and defend public services."

Under the proposals to close the Eastern Avenue job centre, it would be merged with two existing job centres in the city, at Cavendish Court, about three miles away, and Bailey Court, 3.6 miles away.

The Department for Work and Pensions said staff at Eastern Avenue, where around 75 people work, will be offered a transfer to another job centre.

It has also offered to reimburse job-seekers' travel costs if they need to attend more often than the fortnightly visit required to sign on, and revealed plans to provide a part-time 'work coach' to offer advice within the community.

The DWP's consultation document on the scheme states: "Our proposals will provide an estate that gives access to more employment opportunities for local claimants and allow us to achieve significant savings for the taxpayer."

Announcement of the proposed closure prompted Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh to launch a petition in protest at the move, which has been signed by thousands of people.