CIVIL servants tasked with looking after the Government’s Universal Credit programme are to go on strike over “increasingly oppressive” working conditions.

The PCS union says about 1,500 of its members who work in the benefits centres in Glasgow and Bolton will strike next Monday and Tuesday. The ballot saw more than 80 per cent of members supporting industrial action.

Last night staff in the Glasgow centre threatened to escalate the action if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to compromise.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The introduction of Universal Credit has been a textbook example of how not to reform essential public services, and the DWP’s handling of every aspect of it has been disastrous. These harsher working conditions must be withdrawn – they simply heap more pressure on staff who have battled against poor IT, inadequate training and a lack of resources.”

Staff in the centres are losing their flexible working hours and have accused the DWP of micro-management at its very worst. A source at the Glasgow centre told The National that staff are expected to ask for permission to go the toilet.

“The whole introduction [of the Universal Credit] has been beset by problems” the source said. “The IT system doesn’t work. The training for staff is less than adequate.

“There aren’t enough staff to deliver what is supposed to be a government flagship policy.

“It’s about what staff are being asked to do. If you look at the Glasgow benefit centre you’ve got people who’ve been in there 15, 20, 25 years – very, very experienced staff – just getting up and walking out. It’s only going to get worse”.

The staff member continued: “The members are basically saying enough is enough – we want to talk. If the employer will not negotiate than we will escalate it. We’re not moving away on this”.

The SNP’s welfare spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford said: “The implementation of Universal Credit has been a fiasco, with officials being unable to explain the reasoning behind their timescales or their feasibility, inept computer systems, and failures of management.

“This is just another example of why Westminster simply can’t be trusted on welfare – and why these powers should be in Scotland’s hands rather than in the hands of Iain Duncan Smith.”

The £2.4 billion project introduced by the Conservative Government at the start of the last parliament is supposed to consolidate six welfare payments into one. However, a report by the National Audit Office claimed the whole policy had been beset by “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance”.

Ministers have already written off £34m wasted on failed IT programmes. The project was supposed to be complete by 2015/16, but the date has since been put back until 2020.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Only a small minority of Universal Credit workers will be taking part in strike action.

“The fact is staff are already administering Universal Credit in almost 50 per cent of Jobcentres, and feedback shows they feel supported and confident in delivering this major welfare reform.”