Strike against cuts that ‘wind clock back 40 years’

Equality staff will strike tomorrow (23) against cuts that risk winding the clock back four decades and abandoning people who face discrimination and prejudice, the Public and Commercial Services union announces.

PCS members at the Equality and Human Right Commission are fighting cuts to budgets and staff that will mean up to 250 of the commission's 400 experienced workers face redundancy, while highly paid management consultants are retained. This is fewer staff than the Equal Opportunities Commission – one of three bodies that merged to form the EHRC – employed to tackle sex discrimination alone.

The cuts spell the end of free advice and legal support for people facing discrimination in society and at work, and an end to grants for community groups. The commission's helpline faces privatisation, with the loss of years of experience and knowledge.

The union says the commission's chair Trevor Phillips and its 13 other commissioners are going further than the Tory-led government's imposed cuts, proposing a new structure in advance of ministers publishing their plans for the EHRC, and appear to want to strip the agency of almost all of its public service functions.

The half day strike tomorrow morning follows a series of walkouts last summer, suspended to allow talks to be held with senior managers which have proved fruitless.

There will be picket lines outside the EHRC's main offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester and London from 8.30am.

The Birmingham office is threatened with closure – with the loss of 40 jobs – as are smaller sites in Bangor, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Guildford, Leeds and Newcastle. Offices in Bristol and Nottingham have already been shut. The plans would also mean around 20 job cuts in Cardiff and Glasgow, 80 in London and 100 in Manchester.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "These cuts would wind the clock back 40 years to a time before some forms of discrimination were outlawed.

"If people facing discrimination and hatred in our society do not know their rights, or have support from the EHRC in enforcing them, then equality legislation will not be worth the paper it is written on."