Jobcentre call handlers staged a strike over what they called “oppressive working conditions and unrealistic targets”.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said the workers, who deal with inquiries from people who may be entitled to benefits, walked out in protest against a ‘target-driven’ culture.

Staff from call centres in Dundee, Glasgow and Paisley joined the industrial action being taken by more than 6,000 of the union’s members at 32 sites across the UK, claiming “draconian” conditions prevent them from providing the service they believe callers deserve.

PCS said that, despite negotiations and a review of services, Jobcentre management have refused to give staff the flexibility they need to deal with inquiries fully and professionally.

A shortage of staff is also adding to problems, according to the union.

Derek Thomson, Chairman of the PCS Scotland committee, said:

“Not only do these attacks on conditions impact directly on PCS members but they also have a negative impact on the service that they provide to vulnerable people who rely on these services every day.

“Our members want to provide a good efficient and reliable service but are prevented from doing so by a target-driven employer who is more interested in draconian and unrealistic targets than any respect for the people who rely on these services.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said:

“We are disappointed that some staff are taking industrial action which we think is unnecessary. We have gone to great lengths to resolve issues with unions.

“Jobcentres and benefit payments will be unaffected and claimants will be able to access some information online, so any impact will be limited.”