BENEFITS and pensions may not be paid in time as job centre staff strike.

A picket line at the Job Centre Plus in Chantry House, City Road, Chester, has continued to prevent people from signing on for benefits.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union called a two-day strike last Wednesday after the collapse of last-minute talks over an imposed pay offer.

The union, which represents 200 staff at the centre, took the action when senior management at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to improve their offer – amounting to a 3% pay rise in total over three years – despite 76% of union members rejecting it.

PCS branch secretary Helen Flanagan, said: “Unfortunately, this may mean that some benefit and pensions are not paid on time.”

Crisis lines, benefit processing and the pensions service could also be unavailable.

Ms Flanagan said a two-week ban on overtime would follow the strikes which is likely to impact heavily on the public.

She said: “The offer sees our lowest paid staff receiving only 24p above the minimum wage. The Government should be an exemplar employer and should treat its own staff fairly.

“All our members want is a pay rise that at least meets the rising cost of living and to hope to receive some progression through the pay scales each year. With 50% of our members earning less than £18,000 and 25% earning below £15,000, we don’t believe it’s too much to hope for.”

DWP spokesman John Lees said: “The DWP will do everything necessary to minimise disruption to its customers and is confident that its services and payments will be maintained.

“The award we have implemented is a good one which particularly benefits our lowest paid staff and those at the lower end of their pay scales.”