Movement to Work (MTW) is a government scheme aimed at 18-24 year olds who are not in education, employment or training. Officially a programme of vocational training and work experience, it actually is the latest incarnation of the government’s ‘workfare’ programme – providing employers free labour by making the unemployed work for their benefits.
The Civil Service is one of the core providers in this scheme, meaning that the government itself is one of the main beneficiaries of unpaid labour. In HMRC, the employer wants to double those brought in from 1,000 to 2,000, and if successful that number could increase even further. The potential for these placements to carry out work that should be done by paid staff, covering up staffing shortfalls in a climate of job cuts and office closures, is patently obvious.
Personal Tax has taken the brunt of job cuts in HMRC, with over 5,000 staff lost in the past five years. This has created a staffing crisis wherein the Department has failed to answer adequate numbers of calls and been left with huge backlogs of work, which they have then tried to cover up through the use of overtime and dragging workers out of other work areas (often with the result of additional backlogs there) to answer calls during peak times. The use of claimants is just another way to mask the backlogs.
Why employ additional staff if you can get the work done for free? Why offer existing staff overtime if you can draft in more claimants to do the job? Why bargain with the workforce through their trade union when it’s so easy to draft in the unemployed at no additional cost? Why take any steps to prevent further job losses or office closures with a reserve army of labour on call?
The first tranche of MTW placements in Bootle number just ten. But the potential for this number to increase exponentially remains a threat to our jobs and working conditions, especially as they are being put on Work Management Items, the contingency work for the AO grade in Personal Tax, at a time when the department wants to half the number of items on hand.
It must also be said that MTW is exploitation of the placements themselves. They are doing the work of paid staff for no more than their dole, and treated as a disposable resource by an unscrupulous employer who doesn’t want to pay the rate for the job or foot the bill for the actual number of staff needed.
This is why Bootle Taxes Branch members voted for a campaign to oppose MTW and the threat that it represents.
The following motion passed unanimously at the branch Annual General Meeting on 24 February 2015:
Movement to Work is a government ‘workfare’ scheme, aimed at forcing young people to provide free labour to employers by working for only their benefits, often at the threat of sanctions.
With MTW participants in Bootle now being put onto Work Management, this AGM agrees that HMRC is using them as yet another way to continue getting work done despite understaffing, allowing for further justification of job cuts.
As such this AGM instructs the Branch Executive Committee to campaign for the immediate and permanent cessation of workfare in Bootle HMRC in favour of secure, permanent employment for the appropriate wages.
The BEC is further instructed, as part of this campaign, to ballot all members of the branch to engage in an overtime ban and a work to rule including non-cooperation with the scheme until such time as the dispute is won.
We will be asking the union’s National Disputes Committee for authorisation to ballot members for industrial action.
In line with the motion, this will not be in the form of a strike but action that you can take while on the job – refusing to cooperate in any way with the MTW scheme, working to rule, and refusing overtime.
More details will follow once we have confirmation of the ballot schedule, but if HMRC’s aim is to do more with less using unpaid labour, we will frustrate them by slowing down work in any way possible.