Cumbernauld tax office staff stage strike

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 22:03 on 23 June 2014.
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23-06-2014 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - PCS HMRC Cumbernauld strike, 23 June 2014; PCS with Cumbernauld Town Cente in background (4).
Scene from today's action. Picture: Cumbernauld Media.

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CUMBERNAULD Tax Office was described as “nearly empty” today, by some members of staff, after rolling strike action was called by the Public and Commercial Services union.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) staged strike action today (23 June) at various HMRC sites throughout Scotland, in a dispute surrounding job cuts, office closures and proposed privatisation of departments.

At Cumbernauld Tax Office, the strike was so successful that some 94 per cent of staff decided not to cross the picket, which was held up by PCS members at the facility between 5 a.m. and nearly six o’clock this evening. 

“The action taken today by HMRC staff in Cumbernauld is opposed to the 20,000 proposed job cuts that will be completed by 2015, under the UK Government,” John Miller, John Miller, PCS Office Secretary for the union’s Cumbernauld branch explained.

“It’s also against the privatisation of our local post-room, DMB, and the proposed privatisation of the tracing unit, human resources and personnel staff.”

At a sometimes bitter picket line, Mr Miller explained to Cumbernauld Media that the action was mainly over job security, adding that PCS is trying to defend staff rather than allow them to “find themselves being classified as ‘out of work’”. 

“Within the next year 43 staff [in Cumbernauld] will find themselves as being classified as ‘out of work’,” Mr Miller explained.

“We’re seeking to ensure that they get kept on, by as many means as possible, but they [HMRC] have also introduced what they call the ‘Debt Market Indicator’, to look at the privatisation of work in our tracing unit, which could see debt collection agencies brought in, in addition to work in personnel and human resources which is being outsourced to an oversees utility.”

Today’s action in Cumbernauld was mirrored by similar scenes at HMRC offices throughout Scotland and Northern England, although the action taken by PCS members will be rolling across the United Kingdom in the coming days. 

PCS members at HMRC sites in Yorkshire and Humberside and Eastern England will go on strike tomorrow (June 24th); followed 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.

Action at Cumbernauld Tax Office seems to have been one of the best yet, however, with most staff choosing not to cross the picket line and head into work.

“There has been at least ninety-four per cent have supported the action, although a minority have went in, to go to work, under a false premise that they will be securing their employment by doing so,” Mr Miller added.

“We have been really grateful for the support that has been given by our staff, and we look forward to similar support in the future, because this dispute does not end today.”

Mr Miller went on to suggest that local residents, and the public more generally were behind the union’s actions. 

“Without a doubt the public has been supporting us,” he told us, describing the reaction from the public as being “vastly supportive”.

“There has been a general understanding that the UK Government’s policies are actually trying to undermine a necessary service, which brings in the revenues to provide for schools, hospitals and other facilities that everyone requires in a socially-based society,” he added.

“We’ve had even workers passing, who have been involved in similar action in years gone by, supporting us in this dispute, and we look forward to further support in the future.”

Elsewhere in Scotland, PCS claims that there was 95% support for the strike in East Kilbride, and 85% support at sites in Stirling, Glenrothes and Falkirk, while there was a 90 per cent turnout at Caledonian House in Dundee, while only some 16% of staff crossed the picket at HMRC Bathgate near Livingston.

“Members have been pushed to breaking point,” a PCS spokesperson said. 

“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.

“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.

“All our HMRC members are being asked to take 1 day of action this week as part of a rolling programme to send a clear message to our employer that HMRC must improve.”
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