PCS Summer of Action: Frequently Asked Questions

2013-06-04 11.05.01

All PCS members working in HMRC will be taking a days’ strike action in the week of 23 to 27 June. For those of us in the North West, this will be on Friday 27 June. There is also likely to be coordinated action with other unions on 10 July. In this briefing, we answer the most common questions about strike action and the fight that we’ve got ahead of us.

Is the action on 27 June the same as the action on 10 July?

No, although the issues are connected.

The action on 27 June is part of a rolling week of strikes in HMRC over jobs and staffing. This is the start of a sustained campaign to fight job cuts, privatisation and the attacks on our working conditions being justified by said cuts.

The action on 10 July is over pay and is being taken by union members across the whole civil service in coordination with other public sector workers.

Why are we doing a rolling week of action rather than all coming out on the one day?

The rolling week of strikes will still result in everybody only taking a day of action. However, the last time that we took this kind of action MPs confirmed in parliament that for only one day’s strike per member we caused HMRC three days worth of disruption.

What if I can’t afford two days of action so close together?

We don’t go on strike because we can afford it, but because it is necessary. If our actions are successful, we will in turn stem the tide of cuts which threaten our livelihoods and break the government’s pay freeze – neither of which we can afford not to do.

If you are facing financial hardship as a result of supporting industrial action, please get in touch with a rep. We have a branch and a Group hardship fund to support these situations. It isn’t there to serve as strike pay, but can help you to overcome difficult financial circumstances. All cases are dealt with in complete confidence.

How do these disputes affect me?

Jobs & Staffing: PCS members in HMRC have been pushed to breaking point. Despite our best efforts to get HMRC to see sense they are continuing with their despised Performance Management system, office closure plans, privatisation and job cuts agenda. And now they are going after banked and anticipated leave – what’s next?
All of our jobs are under threat because HMRC wants a much leaner department. Even if we don’t lose our jobs, they will become ever more demanding – higher targets, greater workloads, more flipping to different work areas at short notice, more restrictions on leave, more restrictions on flexi, and so on. All of this reinforced by a punitive and discriminatory PMR system.

Pay: The government introduced a 2-year pay freeze in 2010 and has limited public sector pay increases to 1% for all public sector workers. Prices have been rising faster than pay. This means that pay has fallen behind the cost of living. If pay had kept pace with inflation, average civil service pay would be £2,300 higher than it is now. But the government has announced that the pay cap will continue in 2014 and 2015 and possibly beyond.

Will strike action achieve anything?

As with everything, there are no guarantees.

However, already the announcement of our plans to take action have brought HMRC to us seeking talks. Lin Homer’s message about strike action makes clear that they fear the disruption we cause.

By taking action together, we can force the employer to talk to us, and if our action is targeted to disrupt, we can make sure that the deal on the table is a good one.

If we fight we may not win, but if we do nothing we will lose.

How can I help make the strike successful?

There are a number of ways that members can help build for and support the action.

Talk to your colleagues and recruit them to the union if they’re not members. Make the case for why they should support the action. Speak to your reps with any ideas you might have about activities the branch can do to support the action. Attend union meetings, ask questions and let those who can’t attend know what was discussed.

On the day, come to the picket line and offer your support. The picket line is the visible face of the strike as well as the last deterrent for anybody considering attending work. The more people who are on the picket line, the bigger impact it will have, and although we all do our best to dissuade people from crossing the picket line somebody they work alongside is likely to have a better chance at persuasion.

What should I do if I’ll be working in different regions on different days during the week of action?

To avoid confusion, members should take strike action on the day that the region they are based in takes the action, even if they are in a different region on that day.

If in doubt, speak to a rep.

What if I’m not in the union?

Even if you are not in any union, you can still lawfully take part in strike action. Aside from which, the attacks we’re facing are not only visited upon union members and all staff benefit from any win by the union, so it is still in your interest to take part.

But, of course, it would be remiss of us if we didn’t also recommend that you join us! PCS is a democratic union whose policies are decided by the membership through branch AGMs and our annual delegate conference. We are committed to supporting members both individually in their jobs and collectively in the fight for improvements in our pay and conditions.

The more of us there are, the stronger we are, so why not become a member?

What if I’m in a different union?

By law, members of a trade union which has not balloted and served notice cannot take action called by a different union. This is one of the ways in which the law weakens and divides us.

Anybody who works in the civil service can join PCS, even if they remain a member of another union, and doing so would give you the protection to lawfully join in the action. If you are of a senior management grade, we even have a Professional Managers’ Association to promote and defend your interests.

If you do choose to attend work, then we would still welcome your support. Talk to us on the picket line or even join it if you have the spare time. We don’t bite and are always happy for the extra support.

What if I’m a contractor not directly employed by HMRC?

This dispute is between HMRC and its own directly employed staff. This means that we are not currently asking our members employed by contractors such as ISS and Aspire to take part in the action.

This doesn’t mean that the dispute does not affect contractors as well. Very recently, the fight to stop cuts to cleaning staff demonstrated how an issue for one group of staff under our roof is an issue for all staff. The support from HMRC staff in reporting cleaning problems and highlighting the effects of short staffing also demonstrated how valuable solidarity between different groups of workers can be.

Although we are not asking for you to strike, we will be grateful for whatever support members who work for contractors can offer. Speak to a rep, either in work or on the picket line, to find out how you can help.

Remember:

  • Support the strike on Friday 27 June
  • If you haven’t voted yet, vote yes by 30 June to support coordinated action on 10 July
  • Recruit your colleagues and join the picket line outside work
  • Support the overtime ban – fight for decent jobs at decent pay
  • Not a member? Join PCS either by getting a form from a rep or by visiting pcs.org.uk/join
  • Check out pcsbootletaxes.wordpress.com and pcs.org.uk/hmrc for updates

Taken from a bulletin being issued to branch members this week.

Download the full bulletin here: .doc version | PDF version

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