Britain Needs a Pay Rise

TUC Mass Demonstration in the Autumn

This autumn the TUC is to organise a mass demonstration in London under the banner of Britain Needs a Pay Rise. It will take place on Saturday 18 October 2014, and will begin with a march through central London, culminating in a rally in Hyde Park.

This will be the fourth march that the TUC has organised since the coalition came to power. The first – the March for the Alternative – in March 2011 saw 500,000 people attending a huge march and rally in London.

With people facing the biggest squeeze on their incomes since Victorian times, and official figures out last month showing that wages have fallen in real terms every year since 2010, the TUC believes that as growth returns to the UK economy, everyone should get to share in the recovery.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Hard-pressed families across the UK must be beginning to wonder when the tough times they are experiencing will ever end. They keep hearing that the economy is growing and learning of yet another bonus extravaganza in the city, yet their own wages never seem to go far enough.

“Worries about money are a big deal for ordinary people. While their household budgets can just about stretch to cover everyday essentials, they are likely to have to load up their credit cards to meet the cost of any unexpected items.

“During the dark days of recession, workers accepted that their pay might have to be frozen or even cut to save jobs, but now the economy is picking up – and many employers can afford to pay their staff more – the time has come for Britain to get a pay rise.”

Posted on behalf of:
Gareth Hathway
Campaigns
Wales TUC

HMRC Overtime Ban

overtimebanOvertime continues to be offered

PCS has been making the case and will continue to make the case for investment in the department however it’s clear that HMRC Management is adopting an approach of managing decline.

In BB/336/13 we said that there was increasing evidence that overtime was being used to mask staff shortages. This has been confirmed as we saw increased overtime being offered to cover contact centre work in the run up to the SA filing deadline at a time when FTAs were being told their contracts would not be renewed.

In DMB they are offering voluntary exit packages to staff at all grades in a number of locations, whilst at the same time asking them to work overtime before they go.

As the announcements to close all Enquiry Centres and further VE/VR schemes are offered we can see the increasing decimation of HMRC with the loss of further jobs and a declining service to the taxpayer.

This is a situation which will get worse with less and less staff and not enough hours in the day to get the job done. The department should be hiring staff rather than firing them and spending millions on overtime to clear backlogs and get the work done.

It makes no economic sense to be cutting jobs in HMRC especially when there is £25.8 billion of tax going uncollected. The millions spent on overtime would be better spent on permanent staff to provide a better service and to chase the £25.8 billion of uncollected tax.

It is therefore more crucial than ever that members respect the overtime ban which will help PCS argue that resources should be directed into quality permanent jobs.

The overtime ban is a vital part of our jobs and staffing campaign and Branches have responded brilliantly to the ban since its reintroduction on 12 December 2013 and we are aware that membership support for the overtime ban has remained strong. However it is crucial that this support continues.

Branches are asked to email R&CCampaigns@pcs.org.uk and let us know where overtime is being worked, what it is being used for, what the level of take up is and any activities the branch has in place such as picket lines.

Members suffering extreme financial hardship are reminded that we have a Hardship Fund. Applications to the fund can be made via your Branch.

Yours sincerely,


GORDON ROWNTREE
ASSISTANT GROUP SECRETARY

*Not to be circulated via HMRC systems
R&C/BB/45/14

Voluntary Exit Scheme Announcement: Advice For Members

HMRC Management has today announced a Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) targeted at around 500 AA Grades in over 70 offices, primarily in Local Compliance.  This is in addition to the scheme that will now be running in PT Ops as a result of the decision on the future of the Enquiry Centres.

PCS has been advised, but not consulted, on these plans. We remain opposed to these cuts and believe that instead there should be investment in HMRC to close the tax gap and deliver a quality service. We believe that the timetable for this scheme does not give members enough time to fully consider the options before then which could include life changing decisions. Our advice to members being made this offer therefore is:

  • Do not feel rushed into making any snap decisions.
  • This is not a redundancy exercise and you need to hear all of the facts and options so you can make an informed decision about your future.
  • This is a scheme aimed at reducing the number of AAs through seeking volunteers. It does not mean that all AA jobs in the sites where offers are being made will go and we have been assured that there are no plans to move those who do not apply to the redeployment pool.

Whilst HMRC has made it clear to us that this is a voluntary scheme aimed at reducing numbers, the fact that this is the second scheme in a few months aimed at the AA Grade clearly indicates the direction that the Department is taking. Some members being made offers today were excluded from the November scheme on the basis that roles were available for them; others have transferred across from other business streams in the last year as a part of team moves.  It is clear that departmental plans are changing rapidly and this is leaving AA members who thought they had secured a future in HMRC facing uncertainty and potentially hard choices.

Our experience during the last VE exercise shows us that our key task at this stage of the process is to prevent members from being pressured into volunteering for a package that they would have to be offered again, on the same terms, if they were made surplus in future.  This is required by the rules of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme.

These are voluntary exit packages which HMRC has decided to offer on the best terms available to reduce AA numbers. This scheme in itself does not put members at risk of redundancy if they do not want to volunteer. Members should read the departments supporting material carefully as this sets out how the scheme will work, what the implications are for staff who choose not to volunteer and what commitments are being made to them.

PCS is opposed to cuts and closures in HMRC and is developing a department wide staffing campaign to demand a fully resourced HMRC that can deliver a quality service and close the tax gap.

Any questions or concerns about the contents of this briefing should be sent to Paul Barnsley, Margi Rathbone Helen McFarlane or Lorna Merry.  Their email addresses are Paulba@pcs.org.uk margaret.rathbone@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk helen.mcfarlane@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and Lornam@pcs.org.uk

Lorna Merry – GEC Member
Margi Rathbone – Deputy Secretary
Helen McFarlane – Assistant Secretary

R&C/MB/05/14

Enquiry Centre Closures: PCS Response and Advice To Members

HMRC has today announced that it will roll out the Needs Enhanced Support (NES) service nationwide by the end of May 2014, resulting in the closure of all 281 Face to Face Enquiry Centres by the end of June 2014.

PCS is fundamentally opposed to this decision. We believe that our Enquiry Centres provide a vital public service, which allows taxpayers to access free, expert advice from highly skilled HMRC staff. We fundamentally disagree with HMRC’s view that the new NES service provides a better service by diverting taxpayers from a free, face-to-face appointment to costly, under-staffed telephone lines. We are also extremely concerned about the implications of this decision on the 1,300 people currently working in Face to Face who are now faced with extremely difficult decisions about their future in HMRC.

We would like to make clear to our members that there has been no negotiation or consultation with PCS over this decision and we have not been allowed to examine or influence HMRC’s rationale or plans in advance of this announcement today. We believe that this is because the department’s plans do not stand up to scrutiny.

HMRC has been running down the Enquiry Centre service for a number of years HMRC themselves acknowledge that footfall in our Enquiry Centres has reduced by more than 50% between 2005 and 2013, however they fail to acknowledge that this is entirely a result of their own cuts to this vital public service, which has included reducing Enquiry Centre opening hours and relocating Enquiry Centres from existing HMRC offices to other premises, where they are much more difficult for the taxpaying public to access.

Despite HMRC’s protestations that no decision was taken until after the pilot concluded in December 2013, it has been clear to PCS negotiations, members and the general public that the exercise has been deeply flawed. To date the employer has refused to share the findings of the pilot with us and members will no doubt draw their own conclusions for the reasons for this. Throughout the pilot, HMRC repeatedly changed the pilot scope to deliver the appropriate findings which would justify this decision: they expanded the geographical scope from a defined pilot area in the North East and Yorkshire & Humber to all customers accessing our telephone lines anywhere in the UK, they abandoned the very “drivers of need” that they claimed defined NES customers and offered the new service to anyone who needed help, and they revised their projections when the number of taxpayers accessing the new service failed to reach the expected demand.

PCS is fundamentally opposed to job cuts in HMRC. We believe that office closures and job cuts on the scale currently planned will undermine HMRC’s ability to deliver against its core objectives which are to collect taxes to close the Tax Gap and to provide a vital service to the taxpaying public.

MB 02/14 advised members that we had written to HMRC requesting urgent dialogue on the emerging staffing crisis in HMRC with the aim of achieving a jobs and staffing agreement which would protect our members and the services that they provide. At the time of writing this briefing we have not received a response from the department. The GEC will meet again next week to receive an update from negotiators and to consider whether a ballot of members is necessary to force HMRC to meet members’ demands and it is looking increasingly likely that action will be necessary to wrestle concessions from an employer who is growing increasingly hostile towards both staff and their Trade Union.

We understand that our members working in Face to Face will now have very difficult decisions to make about their future in HMRC. We had agreed with HMRC that all members should have the opportunity of a formal 1-2-1 to better understand that options available to them and to help them to make an informed decision about jobs in the new service, a Voluntary Exit and/or redeployment. HMRC’s unilateral decision to withdraw from this agreement, to deny members a 1-2-1 and to attempt to pressure them into making decisions about their future in HMRC without the information that they need on applying for jobs and VE shows their contempt for our members and their clear intention to pressure members into applying for VE as part of their job cutting strategy. PCS strongly advises members NOT to apply for VE until further notice and we ask all members to read the briefing that we have issued today on VE.

We would also encourage all affected members who feel unable to make a decision because of the lack of information from HMRC about redeployment prospects to write to the Chief People Officer at (William.W.Hague@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk), copying in their local PCS representative so that we can collate and raise members concerns in negotiations.

We will be meeting with HMRC following the announcements to discuss members’ reaction to this devastating news and to press for the information that our members need to make informed decisions about their future.

Further information for all members about PCS’ jobs and staffing campaign will be issued next week after your Group Executive Committee meets.

If you support our alternative vision for HMRC and our campaign demands we urge you to get involved. If you are not yet a member of PCS we urge you to join us today – but to also talk to work colleagues about joining the union and the aims of our staffing campaign.

We would urge you to talk to friends and family about the loss of this vital public service and to contact your MP to express your concerns.

This is the fight of our lives – get involved and play your part.

Vicki Searle – Assistant Secretary
Sharon Leslie – Group Secretary
John Davidson – Assistant Secretary

R&C/MB/04/14

Voluntary Exit Schemes: Why You Should Say No

Thousands of PCS members have been declared eligible to apply for one of the Voluntary Exit Schemes (VE) announced today in our enquiry centres and targeted at the AA Grade, predominantly in Enforcement & Compliance.

We appreciate that members have been put in a position by the employer of needing to take a life changing decision in an incredibly short period of time but PCS is asking members not to apply for these Voluntary Exit Packages.

PCS members will legitimately ask why the union is advising them not to apply for this package. We accept that in some circumstances members might have strong personal reasons for applying for a VE package. However the overwhelming majority of us are faced with a dilemma. In these circumstances we ask every member consider:

 

  1. HMRC has not consulted the union over their proposals. We do not think that the employer has put in place a sensible timetable for members to make such an important decision.
  2. Our view is that no member should make such a fundamental decision without first understanding all of the options open to them. This should include as a minimum a 1-2-1 meeting with your line manager and a detailed understanding of what jobs and opportunities might be available within the department and in other government departments.
  3. HMRC has assured us that these are not redundancy situations. It does not mean that all jobs in the sites where offers are being made will go.
  4. However in the event that HMRC does not get enough staff volunteering to leave and in the event that it then decided to place staff in the redeployment pool or move to a redundancy situation it would be required to offer identical terms to the VE Scheme. Our firm view is that staff should sit tight and wait to see all of the options before making a decision about their future.
  5. Because we have not been consulted we do not understand the rationale behind these announcements. We fear that these announcements are driven by the Government’s political agenda which is demanding more cuts and is driving a staffing crisis in HMRC. We are opposed to these cuts and we are working to put together a comprehensive case for investment in the department.  The GEC will support every member who wants a future in HMRC. We urge every member to support their union.
  6. Think carefully about your future. Whilst the terms of the VE scheme are possibly attractive you should carefully weigh up your personal circumstances, the job market where you are and where you want to go in terms of your career. These are hugely important things to think through and it is simply not sensible or possible to do this in a few weeks.
  7. We are aware that during previous VE exercises members have felt pressured into volunteering for a package that they would have to be offered again, on the same terms, if they were made surplus in future. This is required by the rules of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. We urge every member to resist any such attempts and report these to your local PCS Branch or the contact below immediately.
  8. This is your job. This is your future. This is your decision. Take the time you need to think this through carefully. Read all of the material carefully.

PCS is extremely keen to provide advice and support to every member. In the first instance members should contact their local PCS Branch for advice and support. Any further questions or concerns can be sent to Paul Barnsley, Margi Rathbone or Lorna Merry.  Their email addresses are Paulba@pcs.org.uk margaret.rathbone@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and Lornam@pcs.org.uk
Paul Barnsley – National Officer
Margi Rathbone – Deputy Group Secretary

R&C/MB/03/14

800 Club 2014

800club2014

Happy 2014 to all our PCS Members

Would £500 help your finances in Spring?

Would £1000 help your Christmas spending in Xmas?

Join your Branch 800 Club now!

Another year is starting and with the continuing uncertainty facing us all in 2014 one constant we can be certain of is the Branch 800 Club.  We are now inviting members to apply again to take part in this year’s draw.

During 2013 we paid prizes totalling £7440.00 including £1,740.00 in the Spring and £2,140.00 in Xmas in addition to monthly prizes totalling £445.00 over 8 months.  Subscriptions will remain unchanged at £2.50 per month for 10 months (£25.00 in total).

In 2013 we paid over 77% of all income back to the members as prizes so your chance of winning one of these major prizes may be much greater that other locally available prize draws.  You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that your membership is supporting the Branch in our main fund raising activity and providing funds to be used by our Branch to benefit, you, the local members of our Branch.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank past members of the 800 club for their support over the years and invite those supporters and all other Branch members to apply for the 2014 draw.

Your Office Secretary or Wing Rep will shortly be taking names so that the 2014 run of the draw can start in March.  Please support the Branch Committee and I wish you good luck in the coming months.

This year if you wish you could make payments for the draw via Standing Order which will save you time and give you peace of mind that you will not miss any draws.  For more details please see your Rep.

Thank you for your much needed and much appreciated support.

FTA Negotiations Update

PCS continues to work with HMRC to secure jobs for all our FTA members who wish to remain working in HMRC after their contracts are due to end in March. This Branch Briefing provides further information for PCS Representatives and members.

Following the mass offering of approximately 2,300 contract extensions a month ago, we have taken forward further work with HMRC to ensure that all of these posts are filled and that individual aspirations of members are met wherever possible. 

Following the initial exercise in January a number of posts remained un-filled. We reflected to HMRC the feedback that we had received from branches and members on these extension offers, which resulted in posts being re-advertised with improved communications and greater clarity around some specific issues. The deadline for applications has now been extended until 9th February.

Avoiding Compulsory Redundancy

To support our ongoing negotiations we have agreed with HMRC that managers should have discussions will all FTA members at risk of redundancy to discuss what they want and how this can best be achieved for them.

To facilitate this HMRC has produced an options/feedback form to gather information about whether FTAs have applied for extension of jobs, and if they haven’t, why they haven’t. We are fully supportive of this approach and urgently need this information to inform the next stage of the consultation exercise which will be focussed on detailed redundancy avoidance measures.

We would therefore encourage all members to complete these forms and return them – particularly where they are unable to apply for one of the jobs/extensions on offer. Members will not be bound in any way by any information they record on these templates but it will help us to work with HMRC to secure the outcome that each member would like – whether this be to leave HMRC at the end of their contract with redundancy pay if eligible or to be redeployed in HMRC or another government department.

We are particularly keen to receive this feedback from locations where no extensions were previously offered. As you will know HMRC had now offered extensions in new locations, particularly where compulsory redundancy remained a very real risk. This has resulted in extensions being offered in 2 new locations – Portsmouth and Edinburgh, which means that FTAs in these locations should now have an alternative to redundancy if they want one. We now need to ensure that staff in similar locations also have their individual aspirations met where possible and the feedback exercise is crucial to achieving this.

Where members are still unable to apply for one of the current extensions, perhaps because extensions are not being offered within Reasonable Daily Travel of their home, or because their working patterns cannot be accommodated then HMRC has committed to working with PCS to explore all possible alternatives to compulsory redundancy. However, if members chose not to apply because they don’t want to take any of the jobs on offer then it is likely that HMRC will deem that these members will have acquiesced to redundancy.

PCS urges every member who wants to remain in HMRC and are able to undertake one of the jobs on offer to apply. We are committed to filling every job.

If members are unable to apply for one of these jobs then they should speak to their line manager and complete the options form and return it. We would be grateful if members would also feedback through their branch reps with the reasons that they are unable to apply. If members wish to leave HMRC in March then they should also complete the options form and make this clear to their line manager and local PCS rep.

We continue with progressive talks with HMRC around compensation for eligible staff who are unable to apply and further information on this will shortly be published and we will discuss this further with your Branch representatives this week.

Working Patterns

We have secured agreement that alternative working patterns will be considered and accommodated wherever possible. Personal Tax will actively considering applications from part time FTA workers who have requested fewer hours over fewer days. This should remove the barrier many part time members faced when the extensions were last offered.

We have also raised the position of FTA members currently working on evening teams in PT Ops who need to be able to work until 10pm because of other commitments, such as childcare, caring responsibilities and study commitments. HMRC has agreed to consider any applications from members in these circumstances once we jointly understand how many posts have been filled and whether FTA members remain at risk of compulsory redundancy because they were unable to commit to the working hours offered. Members in these circumstances are therefore encouraged to apply.

PCS and HMRC remain committed to working constructively to avoid compulsory redundancy of FTA members. We would urge members to take the steps outlined above and to continue to feedback any questions or concerns to us, at r&ccampaigns@pcs.org.uk.

Vicki Searle – Assistant Secretary
Paul Barnsley – National Officer

R&C/BB/37/14

RIS Trade Union Side Update

Update on progress towards the creation of a RIS TUS
Call for Agenda items for Industrial Relations Meeting

Late last year we undertook a consultation with Branches on the formation of a RIS Trade Union Side.  We are grateful to all who took the time to respond, and it is our intention to move quickly towards the constitution of two separate dial ins, one focusing on PCD issues, the other on issues in other areas of RIS.  The responses received were all positive and constructive, and overwhelmingly endorsed the principles we suggested.

We don’t think it would be fair or appropriate to seek to elect Convenors at the first meetings, so it is our intention to hold the two initial dial ins on 10 February, with the PCD one being convened by Dave Hansford at 10am, and the dial in for the rest of RIS taking place at 2pm, convened by Marianne Owens.

Branches representing Members in RIS PCD are asked to notify Dave Hansford of their PCD lead, while Branches representing Members in Other Areas of RIS are asked to notify Marianne Owens of who will be leading for them.  Dave and Marianne will then supply dial in details to the notified leads.

At these meetings it will be possible both to give an update on discussions with the Official Side in RIS and to let Branch RIS leads ask any questions they may have about the Convenor roles, following which we will be asking Branches to make nominations and running an election process.

As Membership records are not yet sufficiently organised to enable any kind of weighted, or collegiate, voting system, the elections will be run on a one branch, one vote basis, and overseen by a PCS FTO.

In the interim, due to a change in RIS Personnel, the planned Industrial Relations Meeting scheduled for earlier January was deferred, and we are no awaiting a new date for this to take place.  Branches wishing to escalate local items for discussion should notify these for the time being to Dave and Marianne as appropriate, copying me in at my HMRC address.

Hamish Drummond – Assistant Group Secretary

R&C/BB/33/14