Say no to Workfare in HMRC

BootleFrom a bulletin issued to members today:

  • Movement to Work scheme sees claimants doing work of AA/AO grade staff for their dole
  • Scheme website explicitly lists “reduced payroll costs” as a benefit of Movement to Work
  • Staff are asked to defend jobs by refusing to aid Workfare staff in doing tax work

HMRC is signed up to the ‘Movement to Work’ scheme. MTW is just one more incarnation of Workfare – the government’s programme to get claimants doing jobs that should be paid employment for no more than their weekly dole.

Across the department, the employer is expecting to bring in 1,000 placements this year and 2,000 next year. Given the moves made by HMRC to diminish its staffing complement at AA and AO grades, to have work appropriate to these grades done for free is, in the view of PCS, both an abuse of benefit claimants who should be paid the appropriate rate for any jobs they undertake, and yet another way for HMRC to artificially cover staffing shortages.
If the department wants to support young people getting into work, it should acknowledge that it is woefully understaffed and offer these people genuine jobs while retaining the jobs of existing staff.

Instead, the department is still committed to reducing its headcount while farming out jobs to private sector providers and drafting in unpaid workers with no employment rights on an extremely short term basis to do the jobs of staff who are being made redundant.

Those brought in on workfare during the pilots were given jobs involving ‘filing, linking, correspondence and data entry.’ In other words, the jobs currently done by the AA grade who are being culled wholesale through post room digitalisation and privatisation as well as office closures.

Now, a number of these placements are being brought into Bootle, and it is expected that they will undertake Work Management items—that is, the contingency work of the AO grade.

Needless to say, PCS opposes this move. If HMRC can call upon reserves of unpaid, non-unionised workers with no rights when it needs to, this will inevitably undermine the union’s bargaining power and help with the continual drive to whittle away our terms and conditions.

It is important to remember throughout that we are not in dispute with any MTW claimants – they are being exploited, under threat of sanction, by the Government on a number of levels, and if we can engage any of them in campaigning as part of the Trade Union movement against this exploitation, it is our duty to do so.

Our intent is to speak to them, to encourage them to contact the Unite community union and to defend their own rights as unemployed workers.

However, in order to help frustrate HMRC’s attempts to get our jobs done for free, we are advising members to refuse to engage with this scheme in any way.
If management insist, then you should request a minuted meeting – accompanied by the PCS rep of your choice – and the instruction to comply in writing.
Workfare is a threat to all of our jobs, and an attack on workers and claimants alike. Don’t cooperate with it!

Defend your right to an independent union – switch to direct debit today!

Appendix – Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly am I being asked to do?

We are asking PCS members to decline to participate in any further use of benefit claimants brought into HMRC under the Movement to Work (MTW) programme. We understand that where a claimant is part way through their six week placement, it may be awkward for members to withdraw, and so this applies to any future requests for staff to participate with new MTW claimants being brought in. We are asking members to decline to volunteer, and to decline any requests to undertake training of MTW claimants until such time as they have had a written instruction and an individual meeting at which they have the chance to discuss and clarify that instruction.

Why are we asking members to do this?

Because we believe both that it is wrong for Benefit Claimants to undertake HMRC work without being paid the rate for the job, and that HMRC will be masking staffing deficiencies in utilising this unpaid labour to carry out HMRC work.

Declining an instruction until it has been issued in writing and a meeting held is not a conduct offence. No action on conduct grounds could be taken with any legal standing without this step being followed and the member at that point still refusing to participate, while at that point we are actually asking members to hand over the letter attached, confirming that having had the written instruction and meeting they will now participate under protest.

Do members have a right to be accompanied at such a meeting?

Yes. And as it is not an emergency situation, managers should be reasonable in allowing Members time to arrange a Rep of their choosing.
So if we’re going to go along with it in the end, why do this?

We are asking members who believe that Movement to Work is an exploitative scheme, damaging to the interests both of benefit claimants and HMRC staff, to exercise their rights in withholding their co-operation for as long as possible without jeopardising their own positions within department. The time this takes will be a cost to the department, making the use of Movement to Work less palatable to them.

We are sorry, as we realise that this will be frustrating for everybody concerned, but trust us, when the impact of this in terms of the working time spent copying and pasting letters and holding actual meetings is totted up, the Department will quickly see that it is better value to retain existing skilled staff and not try to get clerical work done on the cheap.

And I really can’t get in trouble?

Not as long as you follow our instructions, no – all you are doing is asserting a right – and as long as you don’t demand this every time your manager asks you to do something, you are fine.

I’m a manager, and I’m coming under pressure to threaten staff with C&D before we’ve gone through this process – what should I do?

Politely request that instruction in writing, and then forward it to R&Cgroup@pcs.org.uk – seriously, any c&d action for insubordination absolutely requires that the individual is in no doubt that they could be treated as being guilty of misconduct, and that requires a minuted meeting. Without that paper trail, any proceedings that followed would be automatically unfair.

I’m a manager, and this is just leading to more work for me

Sorry – we don’t want to make your life harder – we really appreciate the thousands of excellent managers who are PCS Members, and we know that things like this create work for you, when you want to do your real job of helping people. All we can say is that this is helping people – in an indirect way, maybe, but it really is – if we make workfare more of a drain than a benefit for HMRC, that could mean that actual paid jobs are opened up, as well as safeguarding hundreds if not thousands of our lower grade members’ jobs. Your manager should recognise that this is placing extra work upon you, and make allowances for this when assessing your overall performance – to do otherwise would be unfair.

I’m scared

Don’t be. Just follow our instructions and you cannot be subject to C&D proceedings.

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One thought on “Say no to Workfare in HMRC

  1. Pingback: Help stop unpaid labour in HMRC | PCS Bootle Taxes Branch

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