Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 May saw delegates from PCS branches across HMRC gather for our annual group conference. Bootle Taxes Branch delegates played a key role in many of the debates and the decisions taken.
Our branch had a motion on the subject in this section of the debate, however subsequent to the results of the Jobs & Staffing Ballot it was ruled out of order by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) as the call in it for a ballot had been overtaken by events. We disagreed with this decision, however were persuaded that the possibility of the entire agenda having to be rewritten and hours of conference time being lost was too great.
The SOC assured us that the points made in our motion were covered by other motions passed, and so we will expect the incoming Group Executive Committee (GEC) to look to our motion when considering their strategy in the months ahead.
The debate itself was a relatively heated one. Delegates discussed not only the divisive and corrosive nature of the system itself, with the clear aim of stack ranking staff and lining up the bottom 10% for the door, but the GEC’s conduct in the past year. Non-cooperation with the policy was passed the year before but not adhered to, and a number of delegates felt that it was embarrassing for senior management union ARC to have taken more action than PCS.
Ultimately, the motions passed reaffirmed the decisions taken the year before. Members, through their mandated delegates, have clearly called for the union to fight for an equality proofed system without quotas and to use non-cooperation with the existing system as well as strike action and action short of a strike to get us there. We sincerely hope that this time around the GEC take heed of that.
Bootle Taxes motions defined important policy on two key areas for members of Personal Tax Operations: the demands that we make of management in the coming year and the key industrial relations structures that we enforce these through.
Phil Dickens spoke in opposition to Conference Paper A, the GEC paper outlining the current offer on the table from management. He stressed that nothing concrete was in the paper, and all we had were insubstantial assurances on some areas – not even the entirety of the bargaining agenda PT Ops reps had set the year before. “With the exception of leave percentages which are already in place,” he said, “all we have is either ‘oh well, we won’t do that for now, but we might in the future’ or ‘yeah, we’ve done that, but we’ll give you a stake in managing the attack.’ It’s not good enough.”
There was a very heated debate on the subject, with a number of delegates from other branches speaking to reaffirm the Bootle Taxes position. Like our branch, they felt that the offer of ‘jam tomorrow’ was not good enough and that we needed to demand improvements and the reversal of attacks, not a stake in managing the attacks.
Overwhelmingly, Conference Paper A was defeated and the Bootle Taxes motion carried.
Following straight on from this, John Smith moved a motion calling for representative structures in PT Ops to be formalised. He stressed that, as was seen with Conference Paper A, an ad hoc national reps committee could be ignored by the GEC but a formal, elected Business Trade Union Side committee could not.
The GEC opposed this motion, arguing that they had their own plans to alter the structure. However, numerous delegates with experience of PT Ops backed up John’s argument and the motion was carried.
The GEC is now committed to setting up an elected representative structure in PT Ops and going back to management with far stronger demands than those recommended by their own Conference Paper.
Jobs & Staffing Campaign
Following on from the positive ballot result, Tuesday morning opened with a general debate on the Jobs & Staffing Campaign. Alongside the GEC motion affirming the tactics in the campaign, Sarah Broad moved the Bootle Taxes motion calling for full accountability to members in any deal that came out of the dispute.
“We want to ensure that the fightback starts now,” she said, “The jobs and staffing campaign is just what we need to reignite our fight against a myriad of things.”
Sarah added that a strong stand should be taken: “We need to fight to win and not just accept the first deal that comes along.” She made particular reference to the Enabling Agreement which came from the Tax Justice For All Campaign, which many felt prematurely suspended that dispute with the key issues unsatisfactorily resolved.
The GEC opposed the Bootle Taxes motion, however the delegates in the room were overwhelmingly with us on the need for any deal made to be in the hands of members and reps.
Although the issues described above were the focus of key, often contentious, debates, they were far from the sum of the business discussed at Group Conference.
Motions passed committed the GEC to continue the fight against the closure of Enquiry Centres and also, crucially, for their re-instatement once they have closed. Motions on privatisation set a strong line against the upcoming outsourcing threats in a number of areas, including post handling and debt management. Equality motions covered maternity leave, sickness absence, disability and other issues which our reps deal with on a daily basis. Conference agreed to argue for a single administrative grade and raise AAs up to the pay level of AOs without forcing them to change their work.
Ultimately, Conference set a strong bargaining agenda for the coming year which will define not only how we campaign, but also how we represent members both individually and collectively. A lot of vital business was done and the task now is to ensure that the decisions carried are followed through.
A report on National Conference will follow.