Strike action at Cumbernauld tax office tomorrow

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 22 55on 22 June 2014.
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Scenes of a 2012 strike. Picture: Cumbernauld Media.
 




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SELECT members of staff at Cumbernauld Tax Office will face the picket tomorrow morning (23 June) after nationwide rolling strike action was announced last week. 

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union will tomorrow stage a strike outside Cumbernauld Tax Office, in a bitter dispute with HMRC, over issues such as job security, proposed office closures, a new performance management system, and privatisation of select departments and services.

“They have been pushed to breaking point. Despite our best efforts to get HMRC to see sense they are continuing with their despised performance management system, office closure plans, privatisation and job cuts agenda,” a spokesperson for the PCS union explained.

“Despite repeated efforts by PCS the employer is refusing to talk to us about an agreement to resolve these issues. In fact the employer has gone out of its way to announce attack after attack on members by ignoring the views of 50,000 PCS members.”

As part of the industrial action, staff at Cumbernauld Tax Office, near Cumbernauld town centre, will go on strike tomorrow (23 June) before backing a national campaign on July 1st, which will see PCS members across the UK – including in Cumbernauld Tax Office – straddle the picket line together.

“It is therefore necessary for members to protect their jobs and conditions by taking action to force HMRC into negotiations. All our HMRC members are being asked to take 1 day of action as part of a rolling programme, in the week beginning 23 June, to send a clear message to our employer that HMRC must improve,” the union’s spokesperson added.

On June 23rd, PCS members at HMRC offices in Scotland and Northern England will go on strike first, followed by Yorkshire and Humberside and Eastern England on June 24th; London and South East and South West England on June 25th; the Midlands and Northern Ireland on June 26th; and, North West England and Wales on June 27th.

John Miller, PCS Office Secretary for the union’s Cumbernauld branch says a, “mandate for industrial action and action short of strike action was given by the membership.”

He added: “Accordingly in conjunction with a permanent overtime ban the Revenue & Customs Group leadership have served the 7 day notice of industrial action to the employer HMRC.

“Public & Commercial Services Union members were balloted last month on the issues of job cuts (a further 19,000 by 2019), office closures (281 enquiry centres across the UK) and a performance management system (PMR) which identifies 10% of staff as failing irrespective of performance.

“Members of staff in the post room, Debt Management, Banking, Human Resources and Personnel units at Cumbernauld tax office face the prospect of job cuts and privatisation of their jobs. Added to this, the issue of an unfair and discriminatory PMR policy which blames the staff for failings of a service that is being run down by a management following government edict,” John explained.

“PCS and its members face threats to remove the time served process of check off subscriptions deductions from salaries by the government costing the taxpayer more than it is to implement. Such actions only reinforce that there is a deliberate campaign to undermine the tax collection system and attack the union which stands up for the rights and legitimate concerns of its members.

“Further action on job cuts, office closures, privatisation and the hated performance system cannot be ruled out for the future. In line with the National PCS Union campaign against austerity members are currently being balloted along with other public sector workers in the UK for a day of industrial action against the 1% pay cap on Thursday 10th July. PCS members who have lost on average the equivalent of £2,400 per annum if the vote is yes will join over a million other public sector workers on strike that day.

“PCS does not accept that these UK cuts are inevitable or indeed required. The economic growth presented by the coalition government is at the expense of the removal of vital and necessary public services. The UK government policies will see the unravelling of the tax system and the destruction of skilled jobs where tax collection enables the finances to provide schools & hospitals, nurses & teachers, home helps and bin men amongst other jobs and services. We will not kow-tow to a political agenda that rewards greed and elitism.”

A spokesperson for the Public and Commercial Services union said that their members had been “pushed to breaking point”.

The union spokesperson said: “PCS members in HMRC have been pushed to breaking point. Despite our best efforts to get HMRC to see sense they are continuing with their despised Performance Management system, office closure plans, privatisation and job cuts agenda. And now they are going after banked and anticipated leave – what’s next?”

The spokesperson went on to criticise Lin Homer and William Hague, adding: “Their heartless decision to close 281 Enquiry Centres affecting millions of tax payers every year – mainly pensioners and vulnerable workers – clearly shows their contempt for key, local public services. They want to hive things off to the private sector and have learned no lessons from the defunct private sector trial they ran in contact centres which proved the public sector is far more efficient.”

“HMRCs latest ‘bright idea’ to flexibly resource workers into contact centres to mask a staffing crisis of their making is a slap in the face to hard working civil servants everywhere. Instead - they should be arguing for extra investment in jobs and resources in HMRC,” the PCS spokesperson added.

“If they get away with flexible resourcing for the forthcoming Tax Credit peak then we can expect more and more initiatives where we are forcibly shifted around the department to cover staffing shortfalls.

“Despite repeated efforts by PCS the employer is refusing to talk to us about an agreement to resolve these issues. In fact the employer has gone out of its way to announce attack after attack on members by ignoring the views of 50,000 PCS members.

“It is therefore clear that the only way staff in HMRC can protect their jobs and conditions is to take strike action to force the department to see sense. Therefore all PCS members in HMRC are being asked, initially, to take one day of strike action as part of a rolling programme of strike action to send a clear message to our employer that HMRC must improve.”

The rolling programme of action is similar to the action that members took last year with colleagues in the DWP and which hit HMRC operations hard. 
 
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