Plymouth Jobcentre security staff on strike over 'obnoxious abuse'

GMB union members picket outside the Jobcentre in Exeter Street, Plymouth -Credit:Ester Compton
GMB union members picket outside the Jobcentre in Exeter Street, Plymouth -Credit:Ester Compton

A picket line was in place at a Plymouth Jobcentre today as security guards launched at 24-hour strike in a dispute over pay and the abuse they face from members of the public. The GMB said more than 1,000 of its members employed by G4S walked out at Jobcentres across the country from midnight on Tuesday, May 7, with further stoppages planned for later in the month.

Among the Jobcentres affected was the one in Exeter Street, Plymouth, where a picket line formed. Strikers carried banners reading “guards on the lowest wage taking the greatest risk” and “abused by customers, forgotten by management”.

The union said a survey of its members found that four out of five had been the victim of abuse in their jobs, including being attacked by dogs, and punched by members of the public. Many described verbal abuse on a daily basis, including threats to their families, racist abuse and death threats.

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The GMB said security guards are also seeking a cost-of-living pay increase. The union claims that 90% of security guards working on a contract with the Department for Work and Pensions are now on the national living wage.

The union said G4S made a final pay offer in December 2023 of 5.15% plus less than 1% adjusted for 12 months. Security guards rejected the offer in January, with 82% voting for industrial action. A legal ballot in March and April saw 94% vote for industrial action.

The union said the DWP contract is being rendered and in 2025 there will be a new enhanced starting rate for security guards. The union wants this brought forward. Further strikes will take place on May 13, 20, 28 and 29.

Eamon O’Hearn, GMB national officer, said: “G4S and the Department for Work and Pensions are happy to let guards scrape by on the minimum wage. Yet these shocking survey results really bring home the terrifying pressure these guards work under. It’s not good enough – and for the first time guards are standing together to do something about it.”

A G4S spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed that the GMB have refused to take our improved pay offer to their members. We are continuing to try to reach an amicable agreement, and have implemented contingency plans to minimise disruption to our customer.”

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