Bootle Taxes Branch Mandate Meeting Report

pcs-standardYesterday (Wednesday 7 May) saw Bootle Taxes hold its annual Mandate Meeting ahead of the national union’s conference in Brighton.

This year, Personal Tax management attempted to pull the rug out from under the whole affair by withdrawing the two hours’ facility time for members to attend. This despite the topics up for discussion having a clear tie in to industrial relations, including key issues like PMR, pay and pensions, as well as vocational issue like the One PT Ops agenda, tax justice, and pacesetter. The restriction only underlined the contempt management have for union democracy and their unwillingness to hear PCS members’ views.

Despite this attack, 60 members of the branch attended the meeting to hear and take part in the debates. Topics discussed included Performance Management, pay, maternity leave, health and safety, conduct and discipline, the Jobs & Staffing Campaign, bargaining issues and structures in PT Operations, and the possible merger with Unite.

The emergency motions discussed at the Mandate Meeting are reproduced after this article. They were all overwhelmingly passed.

As well as the debate and a mandate for delegates to take to this year’s Annual Delegate Conference, the meeting heard from guest speaker Tim Megone.

Tim is Branch Secretary of the Treasury Solicitor’s Branch and has a reputation for his barbed ripostes at civil service management and the government both on the Conference podium and in his NEC election addresses. His speech offered a lively end to the day and had the meeting howling with laughter.

It’s refreshing to see the staff survey, once and amiable pile of fluff but now a tool of policy, perverted to deal with poor performance.

That peculiar question where we are asked to comment on whether poor performance is dealt with properly; whose poor performance are we talking about? Yours? Mine? The bastard in the corner that no one likes? The Chief Executive? And is the treatment too harsh or too soft and how do you know all this when it’s meant to be confidential and you’re up to your eyeballs in work and more management speak bollocks than you can throw a stick at?

It’s even more satisfying that Roman military justice is being employed to sort the wheat from the chaff. The Roman generals, pissed off with their charges after another shit day of sword and sandals in the office, would randomly select a tenth of the workforce and have them stoned to death, regardless of the actual quality of their performance. And it’s on this principle, mixed in with the poison known as relative assessment, that civil service futures will be decided. All on the back of a bunch of nebulous questions and answers that defy analysis but have somehow been twisted into the Daily Mail vision of society.

Then, of course, there’s pensions: we are still being asked to pay more, get less, work longer. So we have the lunacy of forcing people to work till 68 at a time when youth unemployment is over a million. 68 year old teachers dragooned into classes full of stroppy secondary school kids with no future. Marvellous.

The Branch would like to thank all those members who turned up to the meeting despite the attack on facility time and the union’s democracy from management. Your delegates will now take the mandates given to Conference, also in our own time, and fight to turn your views into union policy for the coming year. Watch this space for reports of how that goes.

Emergency motions

Group EM1
That this Revenue & Customs Group Conference agrees that Conference Paper A gives PCS members in PT Operations nothing substantive in terms of the demands that members put forward via workplace meetings and through their reps at the Emergency Summit.

Further, as many of the issues in that bargaining agenda have now progressed to HMRC-wide issues, Conference believes that saying that we are in ‘agreement’ in PT Ops while being in dispute over the same matters across the department is contradictory.

Therefore Conference does not endorse the offer detailed in Conference Paper A.

Conference agrees that the PT Ops bargaining agenda from this point forward should be built around the following demands:

  • The all-year-round 30% leave allowance laid out in EM7 at GDC13 should provide the baseline for future annual leave allowances;
  • Future working patterns in Contact Centres should at least reverse the imposed increase in unsocial working and ideally reduce it even further;
  • There shall be no detrimental changes to FWH schemes whatsoever, and if there is any push for uniformity it should be on the basis that the aspects of existing schemes most advantageous to workers should be extended to all staff on FWH;
  • MFW should not fade away in the eternal limbo of reviews and evaluations but the PCS-endorsed version should be rolled out to all staff within the year;
  • The MIS agreement should be enhanced and expanded to improve the working lives of Contact Centre members;
  • Those PT Ops members who are moved to telephony work or TIP sites should not lose entitlements such as full flexi or non-telephony leave allowances, and where such entitlements have already been lost they should be restored.

In pursuit of these demands, as well as other demands which arise through events or other Conference resolutions, the Conference instructs the GEC to:

  • Ensure that where areas of dispute are HMRC wide, PT Ops-specific concerns and demands on these areas are fed into the Jobs & Staffing Campaign;
  • Utilise campaigning material and activity as a way to galvanise members and put further pressure on the department whilst negotiations are ongoing rather than waiting until talks are concluded;
  • Seek to ensure both that our approach in PT Ops doesn’t hamper what we’re doing HMRC-wide, and that our agenda across HMRC as a whole doesn’t frustrate action in PT Ops where necessary;
  • Reinvigorate communication and consultation with members by encouraging the use of regular workplace meetings to gauge members’ opinions and willingness to act, and by ensuring that the relevant national reps committees are fully informed and able to provide feedback at all times.

Group EM2
Conference notes that despite promises given in February 2014 that suitable structures would be in place prior to conference, the GEC has failed to form a representative negotiations structure within Personal Tax.

This is underlined by the submission of Conference Paper A to Conference without consultation with PT reps on the basis that the existing Customer Operations Committee is an ad-hoc committee without a formal constitution and not a formally recognised BTUS.

Conference recognises the need for such structures to address the myriad of issues that our members are exposed to on a daily basis. Conference notes the GEC have failed to do so.

As such in the spirit of democratic accountability and to ensure that rule 5.8 of the Group constitution which states

(a) The GEC shall ensure that processes are in place to consult members affected by any decision and involve them in directing the Union’s negotiators. The GEC shall strive to negotiate adequate facilities time for members’ representatives, access to the use of all possible means of communication in the workplace for consultation with members and between representatives, and the necessary time off to enable members to be consulted in the workplace where necessary.

is adhered to Conference agrees to the following –

There shall be constituted a Personal Tax Operations Committee (PTC) that shall, subject to any direction from the GEC, have responsibility for the representation of all members of the Union within the Personal Tax Operations. The objects of the PTC will be to take action to protect and promote the interests of PT members, to regulate the conditions of their employment specific to their directorate and the relations between them and PT directors and generally to assist the GEC in carrying out the rules and objectives of the Union and the Group.

The PT Ops Committee shall consist of a secretary, a chair and 14 ordinary members, elected annually by and from members within PT and in accordance with regulations as may be made from time to time by the GEC. This should be guided by the principle that no branch shall have more than two members on the committee, and no business area more than 5.

Group EM3
Conference welcomes the decision of the GEC to ballot for industrial action on the Jobs & Staffing Campaign.

In the event of a substantive YES vote, the GEC is instructed:

  • To meet as soon as practicable after Conference (i.e. by at least the first week in June) to start implementing the practicalities of the campaign;
  • To keep members and reps fully and regularly informed of discussions with the employer and other developments as the campaign progresses;
  • To ensure that campaigning is not suspended for ‘talks’ or for anything less than a concrete offer from the employer;
  • To put any offer received which is not rejected outright by the GEC to a full ballot of the membership;
  • To consult with reps before putting out a recommendation that members vote to accept any such offer;
  • To provide equal space in ballot mailings to both the ‘accept’ and ‘reject’ positions if the overwhelming feeling of reps following consultation on any such offer is opposite to that of the GEC.

National EM1
Conference is concerned by the discussion which took place at the Unite union’s Special Executive Meeting of 17 April regarding a merger with PCS. In particular, the following details presented by Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey:

  • No significant revision of Unite’s rules would be required and the transfer of engagements will be on the basis of the existing rule book.
  • No change to Unite’s political affiliations will be sought or considered in the context of the formal discussions
  • Short-term transitional arrangements will suffice to ensure the full and complete integration of the PCS membership into Unite’s existing structures

Conference recalls that motion A31 at ADC13 instructed that any merger talks needed to be based upon clear demands that:

  • Keeping our current democratic culture and structures intact
  • Guaranteeing representation in UNITE structures at all levels
  • Protecting the finances and resources of PCS
  • Protecting and promoting lay powers, our activist culture, union policies and the leadership role we play
  • Ensuring a Political Fund independent of the Labour Party and run in line with current PCS policy.

Given that the terms on which the Unite Executive Council has voted to authorise formal talks with PCS clash with the clear demands authorised at ADC13, Conference holds that it is unlikely the terms of any proposed merger would meet the demands of PCS members.

On this basis then, Conference instructs the National Executive Committee to immediately cease talks on any merger.

National EM2
Conference notes that a number of recent developments have highlighted the argument for a shorter working day and shorter working week. In particular:

  • A YouGov poll of 16 April found that a majority of the public favour the introduction of a four day working week;
  • Gotheburg City Council in Sweden has decided to trial a 30 hour work week for its employees with no loss of pay;
  • The French Government has written into law a protection for workers from being contacted by bosses out of hours, in order to stop the 35 hour work week in the country being extended.

Conference applauds these developments and agrees that they are worth seizing upon.

Conference affirms that advances in technology, digitisation and automation should be used to reduce the burden of work and increase leisure time for our class rather than to allow the bosses to slash pay and jobs and throw workers on the scrapheap.

We work because it is necessary in order to put food on our tables and keep roofs over our heads, not because it is in any way a virtue, and any move that reduces how much time we need to work to do that should be seized upon with the same vigour as any which makes that time less arduous or stressful.

However, as with the eight hour work day, Conference recognises that such improvements in our working lives can only be won and defended by the organised workers’ movement.

Conference therefore instructs the NEC to immediately press the Cabinet Office and other employers we negotiate with for the following demands:

  • That the full time working week is reduced to 30 hours, with no loss in pay;
  • That part time workers’ pay is uplifted to reflect that their working pattern is a portion of a 30 hour week rather than of a 37 hour week;
  • That all workers are entitled to paid sabbaticals;
  • That all workers are entitled to duvet days.

Conference agrees that the demands above are not the limit of our ambition in this regard but only the first step in fighting for the right to work less. Conference therefore further instructs the NEC to initiate a national campaign for the four hour working day and to:

  • Produce public materials arguing the case for shorter working hours and more leisure time, including the argument that advances in technology, digitisation and automation should have a social benefit for workers;
  • Press for the campaign’s support at the TUC;
  • Call upon trade unions, community organisations and other campaigning organisations to formally affiliate to the campaign;
  • Organise a founding conference, inviting all affiliates, in order to establish the direction and strategy of the campaign.

The NEC should pursue our demands upon the employer and those of the wider campaign with any and all political, industrial and direct action that may be required.

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2 thoughts on “Bootle Taxes Branch Mandate Meeting Report

  1. Pingback: Revenue & Customs Group Conference: Bootle Taxes sets the agenda | PCS Bootle Taxes Branch

  2. Pingback: PCS National Conference: Coordinated pay strikes, UNITE, and badgers | PCS Bootle Taxes Branch

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