London–Up to 270,000 public service workers on Monday launched a two-day walkout over redundancy pay in the biggest show of industrial action by the civil service since 1987.
The strike by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will affect courts, job centers, ports, benefit offices and emergency police call centers.
The union says members could lose over a third of their entitlements when they lose their jobs, due to cuts under the civil service compensation scheme.
The PCS said there was "incredible anger" among public servants who are seeing the terms of their contracts "ripped up".
"The Government is tearing up the contracts of low-paid civil and public servants whilst it claims it can do nothing about bankers’ bonuses," said the union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka.
"Slashing entitlements and cutting jobs on the cheap will damage public services," he added.
From April, those laid off and taking voluntary redundancy will have their pay-offs capped at £60,000.
Currently, redundancy is calculated on length of service with a month’s pay for every year worked.
The government called the strike action "very disappointing" saying that five out of the six civil service unions had agreed the changes were "fair".
"This package brings the civil service more into line with the rest of the public sector and still offers more generous terms than much of the private sector," said Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell.
Rallies will be held in towns and cities across the country, with further disruption planned in the run-up to the general election.