Withdrawal of “Check-Off” Confirmed

Direct Debit Campaign now assumes new significance

Support your unionHM Revenue and Customs has gone back on its promise to retain check-off. Bosses say they will withdraw the system for collecting union subscriptions through salaries at the end of April.

In HMRC, PCS covers the administrative cost of this facility by paying HMRC approximately £28,000 per year for the right to have monthly deductions administered through the wage slips of the overwhelming majority of our members. Notwithstanding that mutually convenient arrangement, which HMRC reassured everyone was safe in an August “Hotseat” response, the employer has now confirmed to us that check-off will be withdrawn at the end of April 2015. This means that from May this year your membership of the union will end unless you have completed a Direct Debit mandate.

It is no secret that Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has staked a great deal of political capital on the removal of check-off. He played to the Tory right-wing gallery at their 2014 conference to make the case for exactly this type of union-busting, as was reported in the mainstream press at the time.

However, unlike other government departments who have withdrawn check-off or are in the process of doing so, HMRC is a non-ministerial department. ExCom therefore could have resisted the political pressure and reached a different conclusion as the vast majority of non-ministerial departments have. Regrettably, and despite all the evidence we provided to support the retention of the current arrangements, they have decided to follow the path already chosen by the likes of Iain Duncan-Smith in DWP, Eric Pickles in DCLG, Theresa May in the Home Office and other Tory Cabinet Members in a variety of government departments – a fact which heightens the long-held PCS concerns about a creeping politicisation of the civil service which go well beyond the discrete issue of check-off.

This development can only be considered in the context of other moves which are designed to reduce the capacity of PCS to continue to expose the “Tax Gap” and oppose job cuts, pay restraint, privatisation and the systematic dismantling of services.

We reported last November about the ExCom strategy to marginalise the union, isolate our reps and encourage more compliant staff representative groups. The removal of check-off sits very comfortably indeed with that overall strategy of hostility and is a decision which was made full in the knowledge that we had requested to discuss it directly with the CEO at a meeting scheduled for 16 February. Curiously, members in the Valuation Office Agency, who are not currently in dispute, will retain the right to pay for their membership through the payroll which ironically is administered by HMRC.

The best immediate response would be for members to defy any attempts to damage our union by switching the payment of PCS subscriptions to the method of Direct Debit. Only around one-third of members in the department have done so at the time of writing. Our aim in HMRC is to achieve 100% sign-up before check-off is withdrawn.

Switching is easy and can be done by various means which include:

Online: via this link
By phone: call 0800 317464 or 0207 801 2680 from mobiles
By post: completed forms can be sent to – PCS Membership, Freepost BFH1003, 160 Falcon Road, London, SW11 2BR

Please note that you will need your PCS membership number or National Insurance number to complete the mandate.

Completed Direct Debit mandates will be securely stored at PCS headquarters and will be afforded all the protections of the Direct Debit Guarantee scheme. Following the final check-off deduction at the end of April, your first Direct Debit payment will be on 1 June 2015 and on the first of every month thereafter. The union will write to you in advance to confirm the operative dates and that your circumstances have not changed since you completed the mandate. That letter will also contain a Freephone telephone number on which you can amend your details before the first payment comes off.

Members can expect HMRC to claim that their intentions are benign and that they are merely encouraging us to develop a more “direct relationship” with our members. In reality, they have calculated that these actions will at best distract, and at worst significantly undermine the only organisation standing in the way of all the manifestations of an austerity obsessed government. By aligning themselves so closely with Francis Maude, they have adopted a high risk position which may well look particularly foolish in the event that there is a change of government.

The challenge for the employer is to take responsibility for their decisions. The challenge for members is to frustrate their plans by switching to Direct Debit now and in massive numbers. We are confident that members will do so and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our campaign to defend high quality jobs and services.

If you have any questions about direct debit please don’t hesitate to contact your nearest rep.

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