Civil servants on strike

Civil servants across East Anglia joined a second one- day national strike yesterday in an escalation of a dispute over job cuts, pay and privatisation.

Civil servants across East Anglia joined a second one- day national strike yesterday in an escalation of a dispute over job cuts, pay and privatisation.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said thousands of workers across Norfolk and Suffolk joined the walkout, which it said caused "massive disruption" to courts, museums, job centres and tax offices across the UK.

Last night, the union claimed that more than 200,000 of its members were involved in the strike action but the government disputed the figures, maintaining that about 113,000 civil servants answered the call.

PCS eastern regional official Richard Edwards said workers had picketed the magistrates and crown court in Norwich, along with other courts around the region and a number of other government buildings. About 40 workers also attended a protest at the Assembly House in Norwich.

"Our assessment from around the county is that we had a good response to the call," said Mr Edwards. "We have had a particularly good response from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and from the courts."

The action caused disruption across the region.

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In King's Lynn, both the crown court and the magistrates' court were closed due to the strikes. The town's Jobcentre Plus was only open to appointments and at Downham Market the Jobcentre Plus was open but on skeleton staff.

In Yarmouth, five pickets were outside the tax office at Haven Bridge House through the morning and PCS union spokesman Lee Sutton reported that only 40 staff out of 150 had attended work.

In Dereham, about 10 workers were protesting at the HM Revenues and Customs office with banners saying "Stop the Cuts".

A notice also told passers-by that the office was operating a restricted service because of industrial action by some staff.

At Lowestoft, one magistrates' court was operating and about a dozen staff demonstrated outside the building during the morning.

In Ipswich, the PCS said it had reached an agreement to allow two of its members to work while the case of Steve Wright, the 49-year-old man accused of murdering five prostitutes in Suffolk, was heard at the crown court.

A DWP spokesman said that all Jobcentre Plus offices in Norfolk and Suffolk were open and operating at normal or near-normal service.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This massive show of support clearly demonstrates how angry and frustrated the government's own workforce are over below-inflation pay offers and crude job cuts that are damaging the services they take great pride in providing."

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said there had been a minimal effect on public services.

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