UK – The Department of Work and Pensions will be hit if a planned strike over pay goes ahead at the end of the month.

The 288,000-strong Public and Commercial Services Union has called for its members in several government departments to strike over what it termed a “derisory” pay offer – although the department has contested the union’s figures.

The union says it has 86,000 members working in various capacities within the DWP, which has a total payroll of 130,000. A spokeswoman for the department says it has contingency plans to account for any disruption of service. “We are confident we can minimise the impact on customers,” she said.

The union is currently balloting its 100,000 members over a strike planned for January 29-30. The other areas affected include the Home Office, Prison Service, the Department of Constitutional Affairs and some legal workers.

It says the government has offered most staff a basic pay increase of 2.6% - though the DWP says this figure would only apply to 14% of workers. “We’ve made a substantial pay offer,” the DWP spokeswoman said, calling the union claims “misleading”.

Separately, the Government Actuary’s Department has said that its resources are stretched - and that it has having trouble getting paid from the government.

“Our resources have been stretched in this reporting year affecting the ability of GAD to meet all its clients’ requirements,” the department said in its resource accounts for 2002-03, referring to an office move.

The department has set up client liaison team in response to difficulties in getting paid for its services. “We still find that some of our clients, even our government clients, are reluctant to pay within the 30-day payment terms and this has caused problems in forecasting and managing our cash flow,” it said.

Fee income rose to 6.7 million pounds from 5.9 million pounds. The report also reveals that department’s chief, Chris Daykin, earns a salary between 160,000-165,000 pounds.