The final day of a week of rolling regional strike action across HM Revenue & Customs saw members in the North West of England coming out. Among them, members in Bootle in particular sent a defiant message that the department needs to change course.
Just this week, members of our sister branch at St John’s House faced the news that their regional post room was being axed and the jobs in there would be gone within the year. Under the ‘digital by default’ agenda, incoming post will be scanned onto a computer system so it can be dealt with anywhere in the country. But our members can’t even be moved to this work, as HMRC feel it more ‘efficient’ to give private company EDM Group £4 million to strip them of their jobs.
This week also sees the walk-in enquiry centre at the Triad finally close, along with all other enquiry centres around the country, stripping away both jobs and the department’s vital community presence.
HMRC still has to shed 10,000 more jobs under the terms of the government’s spending review, and digitalisation of services is expected to take a further 18,000 by the end of the decade. Hence the vital urgency of the current Jobs & Staffing Campaign, which was reflected in the turnout on the strike today.
Picket lines were in place from early on today, receiving an enormous amount of support from passing cars and members of the public, who beeped or applauded as they went past and in many cases stopped to talk. A high number of reps and several members joined in the pickets at The Triad and Litherland House, and National Executive Committee member Lawrence Dunne came along to offer his support for the action.
An estimated 99% of staff were on strike at the two sites, including 100% of PCS members at Litherland House, perhaps the highest turnout for a branch which can already boast a 96% turnout on most strike days.
At many other workplaces across Merseyside support was reported as between 95 and 98%, representing only one or two people going into work. In Wales there were similar levels of support, with Wrexham reporting a 95% turnout.
This is only the beginning of the campaign, with industrial action short of a strike ongoing. Support for the overtime ban has been vital in winning contract extensions for temporary staff, culminating in the recent offer of over 2,000 permanent jobs. It remains vital as we continue to press the case for more recruitment instead of job cuts.
Details on working to rule will be issued in due course and there will no doubt be further strike action if the department don’t come back with an offer worthy of consideration. Bootle Taxes Branch has long advanced the position of our members that one day strikes in isolation are not good enough, and that point has been taken on board in the strategy for the Jobs & Staffing Campaign.
We are in this fight to win. #HMRCmustimprove
Find out more about the dispute on our campaigns page.