Privatisation & Attendance Management – PCS Response to Dave Hartnett’s Intranet Message

We are aware that a message has gone to all staff from Dave Hartnett in which he outlines the issues as he sees them in respect of both disputes. PCS are barred from using HMRC email and intranet facilities to advertise strike action so it is of course helpful that all staff have been reminded of the need to strike on Monday. There are, though, a number of points in the CEO?s message which need to be addressed.

Members across HMRC will be taking action on Monday, 12 December over two separate issues.

We are asking all members to walk out of work at 12 noon on Monday, 12 December and return at either 2pm or, if you work in any PTOps area (call centres, enquiry centres or in customer operations), to return to work at 3pm.

From Tuesday, 13 December we are asking all members in PTOps areas to work strictly to rule by following all work procedures and by taking appropriate screen (DSE) breaks.

Privatisation

  • This project is not about outsourcing or replacing existing HMRC jobs

HMRC has already lost 30,000 staff and is in line to lose thousands more. Without those job losses PCS does not believe that there would be any need to trial private contractors.  In effect, outsourcing existing HMRC jobs is exactly what this is about.

  • It isn’t designed as a prelude to the wholesale outsourcing or privatisation of our contact centres (something I know people are worried about)

Anybody who has read the Open Public Services white paper will know that the wholesale outsourcing and privatisation of our call centres and the rest of the public sector is the Government’s ambition, even if it isn’t HMRC’s.  We need to fight this threat now and not in 12 months time when it may be too late.

  • We have invited the PCS to work with us to shape and evaluate the project. That offer still stands and we would welcome their input and expertise

It is of course more difficult to ‘shape and evaluate’ a project which threatens members’ Civil Service status and is directly in contravention of PCS policy determined at successive conferences.  However, we are always prepared to talk and to negotiate a settlement wherever we can.  Any agreement we reached which might bring an end to this particular dispute will be voted on by our members.

Attendance Management

  • Consideration points should only be used to encourage managers to take early, appropriate action to support a member of their team who is absent and to manage the absence effectively

Many managers are under a lot of pressure to bring sickness absence figures down.  Whether intentional or not this causes stress for managers and their teams and we believe members are taking annual or flexi leave instead of sick leave when they have been unwell.

  • We know there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Decisions must bemade on a case-by-case basis taking individual circumstances into account

This is our argument against the retention of the consideration points.  We believe that if HMRC trust their managers to exercise their discretion then there is in fact no need to have consideration points in the first place.

  • We aim to move away from using consideration points, but we can only do this when we’re confident that the right decisions are being made consistently across the Department

It is of course positive that HMRC has committed to moving away from consideration points.  We are pressing HMRC to indicate precisely when this might be.  We do though have concerns about the reliability and trustworthiness of the data which is being used to inform HMRC’s decisions, particularly in relation to part time staff absences and given that members are taking flexi leave and annual leave to stay within consideration points.

Don’t be intimidated – Take action!

PCS members in some areas are being told that punitive action will be taken against them if they go on strike on Monday, including that if they take action then they will have to work harder on their return in order to clear backlogs otherwise Christmas leave will be cancelled.
Members are urged to ignore any threats that are designed to put you off taking action and to report any concerns to your branch officers in the first instance.

Stand together with your colleagues and take action together on Monday, 12 December at 12 noon, action short of strike action from Tuesday, 13 December.

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