Bootle Taxes AGM defies the Beast from the East

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The first AGM of the newly-merged Bootle Taxes Branch took place on 1 March. Despite the “Beast from the East” and Storm Emma raging, members turned out to take part in a lively meeting.

The members endorsed our Annual Report (PDF) and our Organising Strategy (PDF) for the coming year. The latter committing the branch to a number of key objectives in order to ensure members are effectively represented and we’re in the best possible position to resist attacks by the employer and fight for better pay and conditions.

Members were advised of the National Executive Committee’s policy on getting the union ‘ballot ready’ so that we could deliver action over pay. This will be a key priority for the branch, and the wider union, in the coming months.

Following the elections for branch positions and nominations for Group and National elections, there was a lively debate on a number of the motions put forward. Two options were put forward for how the branch improved its organising around equality issues, with members voting for the Branch Executive Committee to set up an equality sub-committee to address these matters.

Members also voted to support motions on the organisation of ancillary and outsourced staff into PCS, defending jobs in the wake of recent announcements affecting members both in Benefits & Credits and in Estates, calling for a proper job design in Personal Tax and responding to HMRC’s Continuous Improvement drive.

Motions going to National Conference also covered support for changes to the Gender Recognition Act that better support transgender people, calling for a boycott of Amazon over their employment practices and branch mergers as a result of office closures and moves.

Members at the meeting also signed a petition in support of PCS’s demand for a 5% pay increase and took part in a photo op to demonstrate their support for the same.

Thanks to all members who took the time to attend, particularly given the weather conditions.

 

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All of those that the AGM elected to branch positions and nominated for Group and National elections, along with all of the motions for Group and National conference are listed below. See this previous post for our other branch election results.

AGM election results

Branch Women’s Advisory Committee
Sarah Broad, Carolyn Newall, Sharon O’Neill, Helen Sheridan

Delegates to Group Conference
Simon Connell, Phil Millar, Mary Myatt, John Virtue

Delegates to National Conference
Sarah Broad, Phil Dickens, Phil Millar, Mary Myatt

Nominations for the Group Executive Committee

President
Lorna Merry

Vice President
Hector Wesley

Deputy Group Secretary
John Davidson

Assistant Group Secretaries
Phil Dickens, Mark Emmerson, Marianne Owens, Steve Ryan, Colette Smith, John Smith

Treasurer
Hamish Drummond

GEC ordinary members
Tracy Boyce, Phil Dickens, Steven Griffiths, Phil Millar, Graham Naylor, Alan Runswick, Steve Ryan, Annette Wright

Nominations for the Group block vote elections

Group Women’s Advisory Committee
Sarah Broad, Mary Myatt

Young Members’ Advisory Committee
Simon Connell

Environmental Advisory Committee
Sarah Broad, Simon Brett

Nominations for the National Executive Committee

President
Bev Laidlaw

Vice Presidents
Tom Bishell, Phil Dickens

NEC ordinary members
Tom Bishell, Bryan Carlsen, Ralph Corrigan, Harvey Crane, Chris Day, Phil Dickens, Chris Hickey, Karen Johnson, Bev Laidlaw, Chris Marks, Charlie McDonald, Tim Megone, Lorna Merry, John Moloney, Marianne Owens, Paulette Romain, Steve Ryan, Leon Searle, George Thompson, Hector Wesley

Motions to Group Conference

Motion 1
That this Group Delegate Conference notes the appalling pay and conditions of ancillary staff on the HMRC estate. Cleaners, security guards and on some sites other roles such as catering or nursery workers are most often outsourced and nearly always on the bare minimum pay and conditions that their employer can get away with.

However, Conference also notes the stunning victories scored by some of the lowest paid and precarious workers in the country in recent years. Such workers have won the real living wage, equality of conditions between in-house and outsourced staff and even had outsourced workers brought back in-house.

Conference instructs the Group Executive Committee to heed the lessons of these struggles. Particularly that they have been won with union structures built from the grassroots, where the workers directly decide on the course of their own disputes, and using loud, creative and combative direct action tactics alongside more conservative tools such as Employment Tribunals and judicial reviews.

Conference instructs the GEC to commit to the organisation of all ancillary staff on the HMRC estate, whether in-house or outsourced and to build a campaign in which the following demands are made of both HMRC and any private contractors:

a) a. The Real Living Wage (£8.75/h national and £10.20/h London) to underpin the salary structure
b) b. Equivalent Terms and Conditions to in-house HMRC staff, particularly holiday entitlement and occupational sick pay
c) c. All outsourced staff to be brought back in-house

The GEC is further instructed to provide the resources to branches to encourage the kind of organisation and tactics that have proven successful at creating leverage in other precarious workers’ disputes.

Motion 2
Conference notes the announcement back in January that Benefits & Credits members in Bootle, Liverpool and Merry Hill would no longer be transferring into Universal Credit. In particular, Conference is concerned by the threat this poses to members’ job security.

Conference believes that this decision demonstrates the poor planning behind the Universal Credit programme. Conference further believes that this was entirely preventable, had HMRC not treated members like disposable assets it was willing to give away without a second thought and instead committed to ensuring there was a Plan B.

Conference therefore instructs the GEC to campaign to secure HMRC work for those staff affected (and any who may be affected by further such changes in the future) including the retention of additional sites as necessary.

Motion 3
Conference notes the Department’s announcement late last year that it would be reviewing the processes and services of the Estates Hub Service Centre in Bootle.

The introduction of the SAP Ariba system, allowing for “self-service” to replace the work staff in the Hub do, presents a clear threat to jobs. In addition, HMRC’s decision that any remaining such work will not be delivered in Liverpool has told members that the outcome of the review is a fait accompli and their jobs are no longer wanted.

Conference instructs the GEC to:

  • Negotiate for safeguards against automation costing jobs, including members being moved to other Estates or Corporate Services work where this is possible
  • Fight to keep any remaining Estates Hub work from being moved out of Bootle

Motion 4
Conference notes there has been little progress in establishing a realistic job design with Personal Tax management, for A-grade members, as set out in motion 5 at GDC 2018. Our members are still expected to undertake a seemingly limitless stream of work type – that is poorly planned, badly supported and serves only to contribute to the turgid swirl of misery that is our lot.

Furthermore conference notes that the ongoing issues around phone work; with its significant impact on members health is leading to an unsustainable turnover of staff.
Conference agrees that whilst looking forward to coming to work, and longing away the weekends in eager anticipation of Monday is an unlikely to ever be the norm within PT, steps can be taken to at least alleviate the burden placed upon our members; to bring the job design within in the parameters of mutual bearableness.

As such conference instructs the GEC to –

  • Call for specialisation of more complex work to ensure members can receive appropriate training and support, working consistently on one field.
  • Seek agreement on a definitive job design that specifies the roles a member may have to undertake.
  • Seek an agreement with official side that members should not be asked to undertake any new line of work without appropriate consultation with local as well as national PCS reps. This agreement should ensure members are protected from being asked to undertake work they are not trained to deal with.
  • As part of the job design seek agreement that no member should have to spend more than half of any day on phone work unless they so wish.
  • Seek assurance that the job design can factor out phone work for those unable to undertake it. If this
  • assurance can’t be given seek urgent clarification of what the department plan to do with these members.
  • Report progress on this motion to branches by September 2018, and quarterly thereafter.

Motion 5
Conference notes that it remains unclear exactly how HMRC plan to implement Continuous Improvement in terms of impact on our member’s jobs; save for a few choice catchphrases like “Be the Change”.

Conference instructs the GEC to urgently seek talks with the department Continuous Improvement Service to establish how they envisage this philosophy being implemented in the workplace; and how that will impact on our members. They should be asked whether individual targets and or KPI’s will be used.

In the event “continuous improvement” within HMRC mandates the use of such targets the GEC should

  • Oppose continuous improvement
  • Recommend members do not engage in the process
  • Consult branches as to further action

In the event that “continuous improvement” is a genuine attempt by the department to embrace its principles, as defined by motion 68 of GDC 2017, whilst stopping short of instructing the GEC to “be the change” – conference instructs the GEC –

  • To seek regular dialogue with the Continuous Improvement team in order to help ensure an effective rollout as long as doing so is not to the detriment of members.

The GEC shall report back to branches by September 2018, and quarterly thereafter.

Motions to National Conference

Motion 1
That this Annual Delegate Conference notes the appalling pay and conditions of ancillary staff across the government estate. Cleaners, security guards and on some sites other roles such as catering or nursery workers are most often outsourced and nearly always on the bare minimum pay and conditions that their employer can get away with.

However, Conference also notes the stunning victories scored by some of the lowest paid and precarious workers in the country in recent years. Such workers have won the real living wage, equality of conditions between in-house and outsourced staff and even had outsourced workers brought back in-house.

Conference instructs the National Executive Committee to heed the lessons of these struggles. Particularly that they have been won with union structures built from the grassroots, where the workers directly decide on the course of their own disputes, and using loud, creative and combative direct action tactics alongside more conservative tools such as Employment Tribunals and judicial reviews.

Conference instructs the NEC to commit to the organisation of all ancillary staff on the government estate, whether in-house or outsourced and to build a campaign in which the following demands are made of both government departments and any private contractors:

a) The Real Living Wage (£8.75/h national and £10.20/h London) to underpin the salary structure
b) Equivalent Terms and Conditions to in-house staff, particularly holiday entitlement and occupational sick pay
c) All outsourced staff to be brought back in-house

The NEC is further instructed to provide the resources to branches to encourage the kind of organisation and tactics that have proven successful at creating leverage in other precarious workers’ disputes.

Motion 2
This ADC notes with the dismay the government’s decision to delay the review of the Gender Recognition Act following reactionary stories published in the right-wing press, and that this delay may well be viewed as an attempt to derail the whole process. Furthermore, it notes that the argument that reform will place cis women in danger is demonstrably false. Self-determination in other countries such as Argentina since 2012 and the Republic of Ireland since 2015 has seen no associated rise in violence against women. These false concerns serve only to divide us and undermine the reforms by reinforcing the notion that trans women are not “real” women.

Stonewall’s report “LGBT in Britain – Hate Crime and Discrimination” published in January shows the dire state of trans rights in the UK, and it is grim indictment of the society in which we live. 41% of trans people and 39% of non-binary people have been victims of hate crime in the past twelve months, compared to only 16% of other LGB people. While any level of hate crime is too high, this speaks volumes to how much work still needs to be done to make society safe for our trans and non-binary citizens. It is little wonder that the numbers of trans and non-binary people suffering from mental health problems and attempting suicide is disproportionately high.

It is not just violence and harassment, trans and non-binary people suffer discrimination in all areas of life, from simply going shopping to attempting to open a bank account or access public services. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly.

Conference agrees that reform of the GRA is essential to remove barriers to our trans and non-binary comrades. The current restrictions on acquiring legal recognition cause unnecessary harm and suffering to trans and non-binary people, emotionally, physically and financially, and removing these barriers must be a priority. The lengthy and invasive process of acquiring medical evidence to support a change in legal identity must be streamlined and simplified, and non-binary people must be given legal recognition.

Conference instructs the NEC to work with PCS Proud, trans groups and other allies to see that the review and the proposed reforms to the GRA are adopted without further delay, to lobby parliament to this end, and to use our voice in support of our trans and non-binary comrades in the press and media in the hopes of breaking down some of the stigma and lies that are circulated there.

Motion 3
This conference is aware of the frequently reported mistreatment of staff employer or engaged by Amazon and its associated companies, in this country and around the world. Staff are reportedly being forced to work compulsory overtime with some working weeks being 60 hours or more. Warehouse staff walk over 11 miles a day and are subject to grueling targets that are exhausting them to the point of collapse. The company has recently patented a wristband for workers that tracks their movements and monitors how they move their hands at work, allowing for even more draconian measures of monitoring at work. It’s not only the staff directly employed by amazon, contracted workers delivery parcels are constantly telling of impossible targets and grueling schedules. As well as these alleged mistreatments, the company also reportedly uses various schemes and measures to ensure that it pays little to no tax, in 2016, while bringing in revenue of over £19 Billion they managed to pay just £15 Million in tax. While benefiting from government handouts to top up the wages of the underpaid and overworked workers, Amazon contribute next to nothing back and have made their founder the richest person on earth.

This conference cannot agree with the working practices of such a company, mistreating workers is an injustice that we cannot let go without action.

Conference instructs the NEC to distribute information to all members on the failings of Amazon and to encourage members to boycott the company until it recognises a trade union for its workers and starts talks in good faith to redress the balance by reducing the pressure that is driving their workers to despair.

Motion 4
This Annual Delegate Conference notes that, while office closures and the subsequent job losses must be opposed strongly wherever they arise, the programme of shrinking the estate of our employers looks set to continue over the foreseeable future. With the merging of workplaces will, in some cases, come the issue of the PCS branches representing those workplaces, with new buildings not covered by any particular branch receiving members from other branches. This leaves members in a work place without a branch set up. Forming new branches, when there might only be a small percentage of the eventual staff of the building in place at first, will lead to issues as other members join in that workplace.

This conference believes that the best solution in these circumstances are for the branches involved in the new office locations to meet together to agree a plan of action for a new, merged branch, rather than dissolve existing branches and risk losing experience reps and activists. The branches should agree interim arrangements for positions until the next election cycle.

Conference instructs the NEC to put together supporting materials and guidance to assist branches who are in this position and to intervene where, for whatever reason, branches in this situation aren’t engaged in this process.

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