Get involved with the Battle For Bootle

BFB posterFrom a bulletin distributed to members in the branch

The Branch would like to thank all members for attending the recent meetings we held in response to the ‘Building Our Future’ office closure announcements.

As mentioned in the meetings, Bootle Taxes Branch is working with our fellow PCS branches in Bootle as well as the local community in order to oppose the closures, as part of a much wider national campaign by the union as a whole. Here we want to go into more depth on why we are campaigning and how you can get involved.

The threat to jobs

HMRC claims that the move from 170 offices nationwide to 13 regional centres will save over £100 million. This saving will not be in building costs – many of the new regional centres have yet to be built, and the cost of the move will be extortionate. No, the savings will be job cuts.

The employer claims that 90% of members are within reasonable daily travel of a regional centre. This figure has largely been drawn from thin air, but even if it was true: that means the loss of around 6,000 jobs. Add onto this that there are about 6,000 FTE staff deemed able to get to the Liverpool regional centre – which will hold at most 3,100 FTE staff. Clearly, jobs need to be cut for the figures to add up.

HMRC has lost over half its staff since 2005. They hope digital services will allow them to shed even more, in the tens of thousands, and have signed up to 21% cuts in this year’s spending review.

This is without getting into how much easier it will be in future to shed jobs by closing one regional centre instead of a number of local offices, or the question of how long it will take HMRC to decide it doesn’t really need two regional centres in the North West any more.

The community impact

It is immediately evident that removing 2,500 jobs from the immediate vicinity will have a devastating effect on local businesses along Stanley Road. A number of them have already voiced concerns about closing down, and the additional private sector job losses that go along with that.

Bootle is one of the poorest areas of the country, and the offices here were explicitly built to boost the local economy and bring jobs into the area. A complete reversal of that policy will bring increased unemployment, poverty, and the risk of increased crime.

697 of the PCS members who work in Bootle also live here, almost a quarter of our local membership. More still live in surrounding areas in North Liverpool, effectively on the doorstep. For these members, the community impact of these cuts will hit as hard as any jobs impact.

Fighting back

On Wednesday 16 December there is a public meeting at 6.30pm in Bootle Town Hall. Everyone interested in the campaign is welcome and encouraged to attend.
The campaign will be using all means at our disposal – in the workplace, in the community and politically – to make sure that this decision is not a done deal.
As a starting point, we would urge all members to write to your MP and raise the issue of the closures and the effect it will have on you. You can do this via this website.

Keep up to date with the local campaign: WebsiteFacebook | Twitter

Questions and answers

Q. Why isn’t the union supporting this change if some staff feel it would be better for them?
A. Because the union is a collective: we organise to defend our interests as a workforce, not the interests of the employer or the interests of some workers at the expense of others. Supporting the moves makes no more sense than supporting redundancies because some members want to leave.
Q. But couldn’t we use our cooperation with the change to win concessions elsewhere?
A. Bluntly, no. HMRC doesn’t negotiate with PCS out of the goodness of its heart, it negotiates because the weight of numbers in our membership gives them little other choice. Where it makes concessions, it does so because of our leverage: the ability to stop or disrupt production, because without the workers nothing gets done. If we allow these changes to go unopposed, all we do is send a signal to HMRC that it can cut jobs and decimate the department without interference from the union. Nothing else.

Q. What if a move to Liverpool would be more beneficial to me?
A. There are already offices in Liverpool and if a move there would be beneficial to you, this can be addressed independent of any opposition to the closures.
However, even if a move would be beneficial to you, this does not mean that the moves imposed upon us by the office closures would be beneficial to you. Even if you are lucky enough not to suffer increased travelling time, increased travelling costs, increased difficulties with caring responsibilities, having to change your hours to accommodate the move, etc., this doesn’t mean that you won’t be affected. Unlike an individual move, this wholesale move will not only cost jobs, but increase workloads, targets and pressures on those left behind.

Q. Why is the campaign focused on Bootle?
A. Because that’s where we work! The Bootle campaign is one of many around the country, and part of the overall PCS campaign to keep offices open and defend jobs. We are not competing with other campaigns and other areas, but working alongside them to the same overall aim. We are campaigning to keep a HMRC presence in Bootle as well as Liverpool, not instead of in Liverpool.

Q. Can we really fight this when HMRC says the decision is set in stone?
A. Yes! There are a number of different ways in which we can put pressure on the department to change tack, and we have been successful in doing so before. But, as the saying goes, if you fight you might not win but if you don’t you will definitely lose.

Q. Have we successfully prevented office closures in the past?
A. Many times. Perhaps the best recent success against all odds was in Wick, the most remote office in the country with very few members, where PCS prevented the planned closure with the Wick Wants Work campaign. But there have been successes elsewhere, from Portsmouth to St Helens and beyond. There is no reason we can’t be successful again this time.

Q. How can I get involved in the campaign?
A. Speak to a rep. The more people actively involved in the campaign, the more effective it will be. If you want to be a part of the planning and organising, then there’s a space for you. Likewise, if you wish to know when specific actions come up, we can keep you in the loop there too.


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