A JOBCENTRE worker was threatened with a syringe by an Hepatitis B sufferer frustrated at delays processing his benefits claim.
The male staff member fought off the violent claimant and was unhurt in the incident at Chantry House in City Road, Chester in early January, which police attended.
Union members at the office taking part in a nationwide strike last week said the incident highlights a national rise in violent assaults and threats from JobCentre clients desperate to get benefits cash.
Public and Commercial Services Union members, who organised the 48-hour strike last Thursday and Friday, blame the rise in attacks on delays and low staff numbers at offices.
Cheshire Branch Organiser of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Tim Vernon, works at the City Road office. He said that Cheshire claimants often wait up to two weeks for their first job seekers' allowance and incapacity benefit payment.
Mr Vernon said: 'We don't condone violence but we are all sympathetic to these people's plight when they are desperate for money and their claim is taking a long time to come through.
'There is always going to be a bit of tension but the more serious threats or actual assaults have increased because of people's frustration and desperation.
'Along with other job cuts that will make the service even slower, they are proposing to cut our five security guards down to four.
'To do this at a time when we have seen increased attacks seems a farcical proposition.'
Under civil service cuts announced by the Gordon Brown, the Department of Work and Pensions has lost 15,000 jobs since 2004 and a further 15,000 losses are due.
The PCS union organised the 48-hour UK-wide strike last Thursday and Friday to ask the Government to avoid further job losses.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: 'We have placed an increasing emphasis on the importance of reporting all incidents, however minor.
'This means that we can better understand the extent and nature of incidents that occur.
'This will have contributed to increased awareness in the business and possibly the current upward trend in reporting against previous years.'