Hundreds join Newport passport office protest

Protest march Union officials were at the Newport march to protest against job losses at the passport office

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Hundreds of people have joined a march to protest at the proposed closure of Newport passport office.

More than 245 jobs face the axe in the planned closure, with a further 27 to go as four local offices are shut.

Trades union members and politicians joined the public to march through the city centre to a rally.

The UK Government's passport service says closure of the Newport office would achieve the greatest reduction in spare capacity in its operations.

It announced on 8 October that it would begin 90-days consultation on the closure of the main passport office with the loss of 300 jobs.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan then revealed 45 jobs had been saved after negotiations with Home Office minister Damian Green and Sarah Rapson, head of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS).

Then on 14 October the service was dealt a further blow with the announcement local passport offices in Aberystwyth, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham will close by September 2011 and be replaced by a mobile interview service.

Industrial action

Speaking at the rally, Alan Brown from the Public and Commercial Services Union said industrial action was still an option at this stage.

Mr Brown, who is group secretary of the union's identity and passport service group, said: "This today will send a very clear message not just to the Home Secretary and Damian Green, but to the government, that the people of Newport and people across the country are not prepared to accept this totally ludicrous attack on the passport service.

Start Quote

This is not a cut, this is butchering jobs”

End Quote Paul Flynn MP Newport West

"If they don't listen we are prepared to up the campaign, continue it and if necessary take industrial action to achieve the defence of our members' jobs and the very vital public services they provide."

The rally saw campaigners waving a range of placards and blowing vuvuzelas in protest at the cuts.

Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, said the cuts amounted to "butchery" of the passport service and would hit the city hard.

'Brutal'

He said: "The message must get across to Government - this is not a cut, this is butchering jobs.

"There's nothing rational about this - it's unfair, it's brutal, it's cruel and cuts away jobs from Wales in a way only Tories can do.

"Any party that supports this will be political pariahs in Newport and Wales for a generation.

"Newport's economy was rebuilt from the ashes of the decline of industry and now we're seeing those replacement jobs that came in being undermined in this crude way by government."

The march was also joined by Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood, who chairs the cross-party Public and Commercial Services union group at the assembly.

The AM for South Wales Central told the rally: "We remember only too well how Thatcher left people and communities in Wales to rot.

'Battle'

"We cannot allow that to happen again. We have to fight tooth and nail for every job - both in the public and private sector. We have to do what we can to make sure people can work.

"This attack on the Newport Passport Office and the satellite offices throughout Wales is the opening salvo in what promises to be a long battle.

"If the Tories and their Liberal Democrat friends win this, it will leave Wales as the only country in Europe without its own passport office."

The Identity and Passport Service at the Home Office has previously said the changes are necessary to reduce the size of the organisation and ensure it is more efficient.

It said its analysis had found that closing Newport would result in "the greatest reduction of spare capacity at the lowest cost to the taxpayer".

A spokesperson said the service is working with the Wales Office to try to minimise the impact on the region.

The IPS has been asked to comment on the march.

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