Whilst we remain committed to meaningful dialogue with HMRC to address the widespread staffing crisis, the discredited performance management system and the threat of thousands of job cuts under their unpopular office closure and privatisation agendas, it is clear we now have to take action in order to change their plans.
PCS members across all grades and areas have been put under increasing pressure to mask job cuts. HMRC have attempted to divide workers by implementing a system that seeks to penalise 10% of its staff every year under performance management. Staff in 23 locations this week have been faced with an uncertain future as they hear the news their office may be closing.
Years of pay restraint and attacks on our terms and conditions are pushing members to breaking point.
Trade unions are legally bound to give the employer seven days notice that they plan to take action. Under these laws we do not have to specify at this stage the actual details of the action short of strike action however, and the Group Executive Committee are meeting on Monday 9 June to discuss and finalise plans for both strike action and action short of strike in line with the objectives of our Jobs and Staffing campaign.
This is the beginning of a summer of industrial action designed to put maximum pressure on HMRC to re-consider their plans and instead invest in jobs and staffing. The GEC will set out a timetable of action over the summer months that will seek to disrupt and escalate our action for maximum effectiveness. This is a long term campaign. We need the maximum participation of all members in our union to make this a success.
Further details outlining the GEC industrial action strategy will be published early next week.
In the meantime, members may have seen that the employer has published a plea to staff working in Personal Tax Operations (PT Ops) to help HMRC to manage the Tax Credits Renewals peak at the end of July.
Specifically, HMRC are asking members to consider:
- Temporarily increasing or changing their hours
- Temporarily changing their working pattern to stay later to help cover calls after 3pm, and
- Swapping non-working days so HMRC have as many people as possible available to answer calls on Monday and Fridays.
HMRC claim that this is about providing excellent service to customers at what can be a “stressful time for them”.
However, members working in PT Ops will already know that this is nothing more than an attempt to mask the fact that there are too few staff to do the work particularly at busy times of year.
The staffing crisis in PT Ops has already resulted in annual leave restrictions, working pattern changes to compel more staff to work evenings and weekends and the most aggressive approach to performance management anywhere in HMRC.
You could be forgiven for wondering why the very flexibility that HMRC are now apparently offering to change working patterns and increase working hours has not been made available to you at times when you need a little extra help and support to manage your stress!
Last year Ruth Owen faced scathing criticism from the Public Accounts Committee when it was revealed that HMRC were unable to answer 84% of calls from claimants and taxpayers on the Tax Credits renewals deadline day on 31st July.
So how did HMRC respond to this criticism? Did they recruit more staff? No. Did they make FTAs permanent? No. Did they extend Enquiry Centre opening hours to allow more staff to renew their claims face to face? No. HMRC continued to slash jobs, to close offices, to offer voluntary exit packages and they closed all 281 Enquiry Centres.
Now they need your help to mask the impact of these cuts – and to avoid further embarrassment for senior management.
We should refuse to provide that help.
The PCS Jobs and Staffing campaign aims to highlight the impact of the never ending job cuts – and to make the case for additional investment in HMRC, to both close the Tax Gap and to provide a service to the taxpaying public that we can all be proud of.
We are therefore asking you not to volunteer to help HMRC to mask the impact of cuts, or to take on any additional work to help to clear the backlogs.
We are encouraging all members to take the following action:
- Do not volunteer to increase your hours on a temporary basis
- Do not volunteer to change your hours on a temporary basis
- Do not volunteer to change your non-working day
- Do not volunteer to start early or finish late
- Do not volunteer to undertake telephony work
- Do not work overtime
- Do not cancel leave during the peak period
- Do not build flexi during the peak period
By taking this action together, we can show the impact that arbitrary cuts are having on HMRC’s ability to deliver vital public services. We can make the case to HMRC, and to ExCom’s political masters in Government, that investment in HMRC is essential, that the cuts must stop and that more staff are urgently needed.