Bootle Taxes Branch motions to PCS Conference 2015

John Virtue moves our opposition to the Unite merger at Conference last year

John Virtue moves our opposition to the Unite merger at Conference last year

The following are the motions that passed at the recent branch Annual General Meeting. We are posting them here for easy reference for anybody who wishes to support or second them from other branches.

Group Motions

Cleaning and support staff

This R&C Group Conference notes that civil servants in HMRC work alongside cleaners, security guards, and other workers who – due to many years of outsourcing, sub-contracting and so on – fall under a number of different employers and have varying pay and conditions.

Conference agrees that there is no reason for these workers to suffer a detriment compared to those working of an equivalent grade due to outsourcing and the unaccountability of employers such as ISS, Carillion and others. Conference further agrees that both in-house and outsourced workers in the same workplace should be organised together, not set apart from one another.

Conference therefore resolves to organise a ‘One for All’ campaign for all staff, in house and outsourced, to have the same pay, rights and conditions.

The campaign should be built around three key demands:

  • All in-house and outsourced workers to be on equal pay which should be the highest current rate for their pay band;
  • All outsourced workers to have pension rights on par with those of in-house staff;
  • All outsourced workers to have the same rights to sickness and holiday pay as in-house staff.

The first step in such a campaign should be to recruit and organise outsourced workers where this has not already been done.

The GEC is instructed to initiate the campaign within three months of Conference, to both support local initiatives and coordinate national activity, and to provide recruitment materials based upon the campaign in aid of organising drives.

This should be done in liaison with the Commercial Sector and with the NEC where necessary.

Group campaigns

This R&C Group Conference notes that EM9, passed at Conference 2014, committed the GEC to “ensure that campaigning is not suspended for ‘talks’ or anything less than a concrete offer from the employer.”

Conference notes that despite this, at its meeting on 24 September, the GEC agreed in principle to a suspension which came into effect on 8 October 2014.

Following this suspension, HMRC announced that it planned to withdraw check off, refused to offer PCS advance sight of a serious announcement that fell under the remit of the talks and finally pulled out of talks on the flimsiest and most petulant of pretexts.

This was followed by the leak of the union busting document, which confirmed that these actions formed part of a strategy to marginalise the union in order to push through cuts unopposed.

Conference agrees that the decision to suspend action with no offer on the table, and in violation of Conference policy, only helped the employer with this aim.

Conference further recognises that, once talks have failed to resolve a dispute and industrial action becomes necessary, the offer of talks without preconditions in exchange for calling off action is a delaying tactic by the employer.

Further to which, Conference reiterates the point that our main leverage lies in our ability to disrupt production through industrial action (or to threaten such) and that this leverage should not be surrendered lightly.

Therefore, Conference instructs the GEC to adopt a policy whereby the suspension of industrial action will only take place in the event of significant movement from the employer, and on the condition that if a satisfactory resolution isn’t reached within a reasonable timescale defined by negotiators the suspension will cease immediately.

Conference agrees that this policy applies immediately and to any and all industrial disputes within the Group.

PT Ops Committee

Conference notes the PT OPs National BTUS committee only held one formal meeting in 2014/15. Furthermore conference notes that the GEC have failed to fully involve the committee in negotiations with official side contrary to the aims of motion x agreed at last year’s conference.

Conference instructs the GEC to ensure that in the coming year the committee runs in accordance with the instruction of conference namely – to have responsibility to represent members within the PT OPs bargaining area.

PT OPs DMS / Phone Work

Conference notes the role out of the Digitised Mail Service and NCP phone system have dramatically changed the way PT operates, with members expected to undertake any line of work, often with no notice. Furthermore conference is concerned with the lack of transparency over the automatic clearance of work lists, and the potential negative impact all of these issues are having on the tax payer.

However conference notes the new technology does have the potential to create a more beneficial working environment for our members, and better working practices for the taxpayer.

Conference instructs the GEC to –

  • Oppose the current departmental policy of expecting individuals to undertake whatever work is thrown at them.
  • Encourage the creation of specialist teams where members wish to undertake such work.
  • Seek a return to whole case working with members able to take responsibility for individual taxpayers’ issues.
  • Demand transparency over what work is being cleared automatically, and the impact this may have on taxpayers.
  • Seek an agreed training package for staff that ensures they only receive work they are qualified to undertake.

Industrial Relations

Conference condemns the politically motivated assault on our trade union in HMRC.

Furthermore Conference notes that as a non-ministerial department HMRC is expected to operate freely from political interference; whilst observing the requirements of the civil service code with regard to being in a way that would not bring us into conflict with any future government. As such conference believes the actions of Jonathan Donovan and Lyn Homer have breached the civil service code and brought the department into disrepute.

As such conference calls for the GEC to demand on behalf of all staff that the above named resign.

A Fresh Approach to Quality

Conference notes the increasingly punitive use of quality checks in many parts of the department. Conference notes that the small sample checks used provide an inaccurate statistical representation of performance. This process is deconstructive and makes checks something to fear.

Conference is appalled that in PT ops this mentality has included a project that encourages members to grass on their colleagues.

Conference calls on the GEC to seek a moratorium on performance management in relation to quality; to work with the department to create an environment where quality checks are used to educate everyone, not to punish individuals.

PMR

Conference censures the GEC over the lack of action over the odious PMR system, conference instructs the GEC to organise non-co-operation with the discriminatory PMR system. The basis of this shall be on the principle that to co-operate with the system is to help discriminate against colleagues with protected characteristics.

To this end the GEC shall –

  1. Advise members to withdraw co-operation from the PMR system until such a time as the department can demonstrate their processes will not discriminate against members in protected groups.
  2. Ballot members on a work to rule where by all good will, volunteering, and undertaking of tasks not appropriate to grade is boycotted; in short anything we can advise our members that they can get away with not doing we shall encourage them to rigorously not to do.
  3. Provide advice to members in management roles on how they can protect their teams and themselves from the pressures that are placed on them.
  4. Actively seek test cases to support through employment tribunals.
  5. Disrupt the KPI setting process through rigorous challenging of how they are set, and then used.
  6. Provide members with advice on filing grievances in regards to equality issues associated with the PMR process

Movement to Work

This Group Conference condemns HMRC’s involvement in the Movement to Work scheme.

Despite MTW’s pretensions to helping 18-24 year olds find work, the scheme is just another form of the insidious ‘workfare’ policy, aimed at offering claimants as free labour to employers, often with the threat of sanctions.

With MTW participants in HMRC now being used to do tax work on the cheap, such as Work Management Items, Conference agrees that this is just another way for the department to do “more with less” – cutting staff whilst finding other ways to mask the effect of those cuts.

Conference further agrees that the use of such a casual and extremely short-term workforce, who are not required to sign the Official Secrets Act, present serious security and confidentiality concerns for taxpayers.

Conference therefore instructs the Group Executive Committee:

  • To campaign for the immediate and permanent cessation of workfare in HMRC in favour of secure, permanent employment for the appropriate wages;
  • To highlight publicly the security risks of non-Civil Servants having access to tax records and sensitive taxpayer data;
  • To work with the NEC, the PCS Parliamentary Group, the Unite Community Union and campaign groups such as Boycott Workfare to oppose MTW in HMRC and across the civil service politically and using protest and direct action;
  • To ballot members as necessary for non-cooperation with the scheme, an overtime ban and a work slowdown until such time as the dispute is won.

Tax Justice

Conference notes the recent adverse publicity received by HMRC due to its lenient handling of the “HSBC” tax evaders. Conference also notes the heavy criticism Excom came under from eth Public Accounts Committee.

Conference believes this criticism to be entirely justified due to the hypocritical and contradictory way HMRC views Tax Evasion, compared to other crimes that come under the department’s jurisdiction – an attitude that sees Tax Credit, VAT and duty fraudsters sent to prison, condemned for funding lavish luxury lifestyles with their ill-gotten gains – whilst tax evaders, born into a life of luxury, get a slap on the wrist, repay the money and escape without a criminal record.

Conference – as the representative body of HMRC staff believes such a position only serves to encourage evasion.
Furthermore conference holds the legal position of those resident of the UK who are able to claim non-domiciled status for taxation purposes, has no place in a society that believes in fairness and equality.

Conference is also alarmed at the other side of tax justice; where low paid workers are being exploited by dodgy ”high volume” agents into signing over meagre tax repayments that have often occurred due to understaffing in PT Operations.

Furthermore conference notes that year on year more and more pensioners on chronically low incomes are being dragged into taxation due to the coalition’s taxations budgets that have seen tax cut s for corporations whilst age related allowances have all but disappeared.

As such conference instructs the GEC as part of the wider tax justice campaign to –

Campaign for every case of tax evasion to be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service; and for punishments for this offence to reflect that of offences for Tax credit, Duty and VAT fraud.

Campaign for companies and professional bodies that facilitate tax evasion to be prosecuted under the laws relating to joint enterprise and/or aiding and abetting a crime.

Campaign for an end to non-domiciled status; if they live here they pay tax here.
Expose the unscrupulous practices of “high volume” agents, who are talking money for no service what so ever; at the same time to campaign for the department to offer a clear better service to taxpayers highlighting what can be claimed as expenses, whilst guaranteeing that every “open case” shall be reviewed each year.

Campaign for Age Related Allowances to be increased to reflect the fall in real terms since 2010.

Jobs & staffing campaign

This R&C Group Conference notes that HMRC’s business plan for 2015/16 includes an increase in staff to 58,900 FTE in the next year.

However, Conference also notes that according to the same plan:

  • Front line tax directorates (PT, BT, E&C and B&C) will see a net drop in staff numbers;
  • Many of the new recruits will be temporary and working unsocial shift patterns;
  • Office closures and exit schemes will continue to shed existing, permanent jobs.

Conference therefore condemns the business plan as a blueprint for imposing casualisation and increased unsocial working by the back door.

Conference is disappointed by the Group Executive Committee’s response in BB 042-15, where it “welcome[d] this development as a step forward” and erroneously claimed that the “HMRC job cuts programme [was] halted after pressure from PCS members.” Job cuts are clearly continuing, and using an extremely superficial analysis of the business plan in order to try and spin a victory doesn’t boost members’ confidence. Rather, it damages the GEC’s credibility, and paints them as more interested in claiming a win than in actually achieving one.

Conference further agrees in light of these developments that:

  • The decision to suspend action in September was wrong;
  • The complete lack of tangible campaigning since then has damaged members’ confidence in the union and cost considerable momentum;
  • This has in turn emboldened the employer both to aggressively pursue a union busting agenda and to secure our meek acceptance of the same out of fear that cooperation with the Direct Debit signup would be withdrawn.

Conference thus instructs the GEC, in pursuit of our aims on jobs and staffing, to:

  • Reinstate the overtime ban on an indefinite basis;
  • Draw up a plan of industrial action short of strike including both an ongoing work to rule and shorter term on-the-job actions which can stop or disrupt work at extremely short notice;
  • Work with branches to produce local action, paid if necessary, which can disrupt high priority workloads and prevent the Department from meeting key targets;
  • Utilise national strikes to disrupt national work peaks, particularly where staff from different directorates are drafted in to cover staff shortages in crisis management.

In the event that a ballot is required to enact the above, this should be done as soon as practical after Conference and not drawn out to delay action.

Action shall not be suspended without an offer of concrete concessions from the employer and no deal shall be accepted without a full membership ballot.

Post backlogs

Conference notes the chaotic state of personal tax, with over 1.5 million letters on hand per the recent media coverage.

Conference notes that in some work areas there is now over 6 months post on hand.

Conference notes this backlog is exacerbated by PT directors moving thousands of processing staff onto phone work in order to mask contact centre understaffing.

Conference instructs the GEC to expose this scandalous mismanagement of the department and highlight the appalling service the taxpayer is getting as a result. To facilitate this the GEC shall on a monthly basis –

  • Request detailed post on hand figures for each DMS queue.
  • Seek confirmation of how many letters have yet to be scanned onto the DMS system.
  • Seek detailed stats relating to calls attempted including hang ups and average waiting times.
  • Seek confirmation of WMI on hand.

On receipt of this information the GEC shall publish the information to MPs and the media as part of the jobs and staffing campaign.

The GEC shall also demand that management retain enough staff on processing at any given time to ensure this work is undertaken within current targets.

National motions

National elections

The decision by the NEC in late December to suspend NEC and group elections was wrong.

This conference instructs the NEC to begin the election process for NEC and GEC elections within two weeks of the end of Annual Delegate Conference, giving members and branches the due constitutional notice thereafter.

John Pearson

This Annual Delegate Conference applauds former HP North West Branch Secretary John Pearson for achieving a verdict of unfair dismissal for trade union activity at Employment Tribunal, despite the appalling lack of support from his trade union.

Conference notes that:

  • John was dismissed from Hewlett-Packard in late 2013 on a charge of breaching company confidentiality;
  • This was initially condemned as an attack on the union by the PCS HP Group Secretary;
  • A few months later, with a work to rule still ongoing and a consultative ballot taking place in John’s branch, the Group Secretary informed John that the union was no longer taking action to seek remedy for him;
  • This resulted in John no longer being able to hold his position as branch secretary or as a member under PCS rules;
  • At last year’s ADC, a motion instructing the NEC to retrospectively support John was defeated following highly personalised and slanderous opposition;
  • As a result, John was forced to pursue his Employment Tribunal independently and to fund it himself, supported by donations from the John Pearson Defence Campaign launched by rank-and-file activists.

Conference agrees that what happened to John is a damning indictment of PCS in how it supports its own trade union reps. Conference censures the National Executive Committee and insists that this situation should never be allowed to repeat itself in our union.

John’s case has also thrown into sharp focus what Conference feels is a distinct lack of support from the union more generally regarding Employment Tribunals. Many reps will know the frustration at the willingness of PCS Legal to write off cases as unwinnable and withhold support, particularly in those instances where the rep has then gone on to win those cases.

Conference therefore instructs the NEC to:

  • Offer full retrospective support to John, including a reimbursement of the legal costs he paid out of his own pocket;
  • Provide a written guarantee that reps and activists victimised by their employer will receive full and unwavering support when fighting that victimisation, by all available means including ET, as a point of principle;
  • Include in all future financial reports to Conference detail of the number of ETs pursued by the union, the percentage won, and the cost thereof.

Conference expects that support for John and written guarantee should be provided by August this year.

Employment Tribunals

Conference resolves to put lay representatives in control of whether personal cases are taken forward to Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal by the union.

To achieve this end, the National Executive Committee is instructed:

  • To establish authorised regional committees of experienced lay advocates to coordinate and evaluate cases and to sanction financial and other support from the union;
  • To ensure that the legal advice and representation at PCS’s disposal is available to these committees as and when required;
  • To provide clear, transparent and accountable routes of appeal for members who wish to challenge any decision not to support their case to ET or EAT.

This should be done before the end of 2015.

Merger with UNITE

The PCS-UNITE merger is dead.

In UNITE General Secretary Len McCluskey’s words “our rules don’t change, our structures don’t change” and “there’ll be no further progress with PCS going into the future.”

Conference therefore agrees that the terms of Motion A22 passed at ADC 2014 cannot be met in any transfer of undertakings to UNITE and instructs the NEC to end talks.

Let’s call the whole thing off!

National Campaign

Conference instructs the National Executive Committee:

On the Fighting Fund –

  • To promote the national levy at Branch, Group and National level
  • To set up an online facility both for members to set up their levy via direct debit and for supporters to make donations to the Fund
  • To use everything from bucket collections to organised fundraising events to bring in money for the Fund

On industrial action –

  • To organise targeted action as a priority
  • To fully support and coordinate Group level action
  • To encourage Branch level action where there is a mood for it and to provide help and support as needed, including with NDC submissions
  • To promote strike committees as a way of coordinating action in local areas and building solidarity, including across union boundaries where possible

On political and community campaigning –

  • To campaign at all levels including parliamentary, political, media, legal and social networks
  • To utilise creative forms of protest and direct action from communication blockades and sit-ins to pickets of MPs’ homes or offices
  • To support and actively encourage protest and direct action which can disrupt public-facing workplaces without the withdrawal of labour, working with activist and campaign groups as necessary
  • To wherever possible coordinate walkouts or protests at workplaces with visits by ministers and senior civil servants such as directors, chief executives and permanent secretaries

On the Alternative to Austerity –

  • To reinvigorate the message that “There Is An Alternative”
  • To argue not just against the cuts but in favour of improvements in working conditions for all, including living wage, reduced workloads and greater work-life balance
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2 thoughts on “Bootle Taxes Branch motions to PCS Conference 2015

  1. Pingback: Revenue & Customs Group Conference Report | PCS Bootle Taxes Branch

  2. Pingback: National Conference Report | PCS Bootle Taxes Branch

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