Campaigns update

The following is the text of a bulletin being issued to Bootle Taxes members today.

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Jobs & Staffing Campaign

Recently, PCS asked members in HMRC to vote on whether to take industrial action as part of its Jobs & Staffing Campaign. The results of the ballot are as follows:

STRIKE ACTION

(a) Number of Votes Cast: 13,485
(b) Number of “YES” Votes: 7,370
(c) Number of “NO” Votes: 5,978
(d) Number of spoiled voting papers 137

INDUSTRIAL ACTON SHORT OF A STRIKE

(a) Number of Votes Cast: 13,485
(b) Number of “YES” Votes: 10,365
(c) Number of “NO” Votes: 2,872
(d) Number of spoiled voting papers 248

The employer has been notified of the result.

The Group Executive Committee is meeting this week to consider the response from the employer and, if this response is inadequate, they will be looking at what forms of industrial action can be best utilised to secure concessions.

In the meantime, PCS members are reminded that the purpose of our Jobs & Staffing Campaign is to counter the chronic short staffing in the department. As such, support for the ongoing overtime ban and refusal to volunteer for extra hours remains crucial.

The department has made a series of announcements about jobs and staffing issues which directly impact upon the livelihoods of PCS members. The most recent of these include:

  1. Increased pressure through the PMR system trying to force staff to do more;
  2. The use of private company EDM Group to handle and digitally scan post, threatening the jobs of 700 local and regional post room staff;
  3. The closure of 22 offices around the country after staff were targeted with voluntary exit schemes;
  4. The closure of all 281 Enquiry Centres, meaning the loss of 1,300 staff;
  5. Changes to our contracts that have seen the removal of the right to anticipate leave, as well as the increasing pressure to prevent staff taking leave when they need to take it.

These latest announcements are all part of a much wider plan to drastically shrink the department. HMRC are committed to getting rid of 10,000 staff in the next two years and a further 18,000 by 2019. It is clear that without extra staff they will simply expect us all to do more and more.

HMRC is using crisis management to get work done. We saw this with the desperate call for staff across PT Ops to work overtime on phones ahead of the Self Assessment deadline. With the Tax Credits Peak, this is happening again except that staff from across the whole department are being called up – in many instances against their will.

PCS was able to negotiate for the vast majority of the 3,000 FTAs who faced losing their jobs to have their contracts extended – and not for the first time. But this is only happening because members are standing together and making sure that management cannot ignore the staffing crisis. That is, by refusing overtime.

Simply slowing the tide of the attacks is not enough and we need to start rolling them back. That is why we will follow up the positive ballot result with further industrial action.

Do you want: more restrictions on annual leave? Attacks on flexible working? More forced flipping between types of work? More privatisation and job losses? Or do you want a properly staffed HMRC which treats its staff with dignity and upholds their hard won employment rights?

At our Group’s Conference last week, delegates from this branch won the argument that no deal can be made with the employer without the consultation of reps and agreement of members. This means that, in the event that HMRC does make an offer to end the dispute that is worthy of consideration, the GEC are obliged to put it to a membership ballot.

But to get to that point we have to fight. Our unity is our strength – support the overtime ban and support the Jobs & Staffing Campaign.

PCS National Campaign

As well as the dispute over jobs and staffing in HMRC, the union remains in dispute over jobs, pay, pensions and terms and conditions across the whole civil service.

At the union’s national Conference, this branch’s delegates expressed the frustration of many members with the stop-start nature of this dispute and emphasised the need for something more sustained and sustainable. We are glad to say that we were far from alone in voicing this point of view, and hope that as a result we will be moving away from the tactic of single days of strike action months apart.

However, at Conference the main focus of debate was on the possibility of coordinated strikes with other unions who are in similar disputes. It now looks increasingly likely that the National Union of Teachers, local government union UNISON, the GMB and UNITE unions, the Fire Brigades Union and others will be taking strike action on 10 July.

In the light of these developments the National Executive Committee has agreed that PCS will consult members about our campaign, which will include supporting the action on 10 July. The strategy will also include the launch of a levy of members, and a campaign of targeted action aimed at bringing maximum pressure to bear on the Cabinet Office and treasury to lift the pay cap and open pay talks which are not constrained by those limits.

The national industrial action ballot which closed on 4 March 2013 continues to provide a legal mandate for action over the issues comprising our national dispute, including pay. Therefore this will be a non-statutory, consultative ballot.

The NEC agreed that the consultation will be a postal ballot of all members. The ballot will open on 12 June and close on 30 June.

The branch will keep members fully informed of all developments, as usual. As well as circulars such as this one, please be sure to regularly check the branch website pcsbootletaxes.wordpress.com, the Group website pcs.org.uk/hmrc and the national website pcs.org.uk.

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