Tag Archives: Enquiry Centres

HMRC Must Improve: Jobs & Staffing Campaign

The Jobs & Staffing Campaign continues. Please read the update and attachments on the national PCS website

Members Briefing R&C/MB/09/14:

JOBS AND STAFFING CAMPAIGN BALLOT

STARTS MONDAY 28 APRIL

In January, PCS wrote to Lin Homer seeking centrally convened talks to reach an agreement on jobs and staffing that would address your concerns about a number of detrimental impositions and announcements that threaten thousands of jobs across HMRC. The reply from the Chief Executive made clear that she was unwilling to arrange a meeting to discuss your concerns.

Last month we wrote again to the Chief Executive, laying out more starkly your demands and highlighting a number of recent announcements, made without prior consultation or negotiation with PCS, which threaten thousands of jobs in HMRC. These include but are not limited to: the imposition of the discredited Performance Management system, the closure of all 281 enquiry centres, 3 voluntary exit schemes, the start of a consultation exercise to close 12 offices, privatisation of work in Benefits and Credits and Debt Management and Banking and a refusal to offer permanent jobs to over 3,000 members currently employed on fixed term contracts.

Since this second letter was sent we have been made aware of a decision to privatise post handling work, along with the announcement of the latest HMRC Business Plan which details further cuts and yesterday’s unilateral decision to scrap banked leave and vary leave anticipation and carry over arrangements, none of which have been subject to any consultation with PCS.

The Group Executive Committee (GEC) met yesterday to receive a report on progress towards achieving a Jobs and Staffing agreement with HMRC. Despite repeated attempts to secure meaningful negotiations, HMRC continue to refuse to meet with PCS. The GEC unanimously agreed that it is now clear that your demands cannot be achieved through negotiation alone and that there should be a ballot of all PCS members in HMRC.

The ballot asks all members to vote to take strike action and action short of strike in pursuit of our demands, which are:

  • An agreement on staffing to ensure that there are enough staff to do the work.
  • Permanent jobs for all members on fixed term contracts.
  • An end to all current privatisation exercises and a commitment not to outsource any HMRC work in future.
  • A guarantee of no compulsory redundancies and no compulsory moves beyond reasonable daily travel.
  • An end to office closures, and for HMRC to retain a visible face to face presence in our communities.
  • An agreement on workload – reducing stress, over-stretch and demands on workers.
  • An immediate scrapping of the discredited performance management system.
  • A reduction in line managers’ spans of command, to reduce pressure and to allow managers to focus more on staff support and development.
  • A fully funded HMRC tackling avoidance and evasion – but also putting public service delivery at the heart of everything it does.

The ballot will commence on Monday 28 April and will close on Friday 16 May 2014.

We are asking all members to reject HMRC’s vision of smaller, more flexible workforce concentrated in large urban centres. This will mean the closure of offices, forcing members to leave through aggressive performance management system, the offering of voluntary exit packages and an end to a public facing department through the forced migration of taxpayers onto online filing and correspondence.

We are asking all members to vote in favour of PCS’s alternative vision for HMRC which requires: adequate staffing levels to close the Tax Gap and to provide a quality service to the taxpaying public, a visible face to face presence in all local communities, fundamental changes to the management of people such as the abolition of oppressive performance management policies and the development of rewarding jobs which are manageable and achievable.

Previous campaigns in the Revenue and Customs Group have seen off privatisation in our Contact Centres, protected over 3,000 FTAs from compulsory redundancy, saved workplace nurseries from closure and secured additional funding which has saved thousands of jobs across HMRC.

We hope that Chief Executive, Lin Homer, and Chief People Officer, William Hague, will agree to talk to us and reach an agreement that will protect our jobs and allow us to carry our core work of providing a service to taxpayers and reducing the Tax Gap. However, if they don’t we need to take action to make the employer listen to us.

Branch representatives will be distributing campaign materials over the coming weeks, to explain more about our Jobs and Staffing campaign and how you can contribute to its success. If you want to get involved, speak to a local rep, or visit the R&C Group Campaign Pages

Together we are strong and together we can win. Vote Yes/Yes when your ballot paper arrives.

Paul Barnsley (National Officer)
On behalf of the Group Executive Committee
(16 April 2014)

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HMRC Must Improve – Have Your Say

(Adapted from R&C/BB/79/14)

The staffing crisis in HMRC is pushing members to breaking point. Draconian sickness and performance policies are starting to bite. Privatisation plans in Benefits & Credits and in DMB remains a real threat to jobs and data security. Despite widespread condemnation from politicians, local communities and workers alike, HMRC are continuing with their discredited Enquiry Centre closure plans. Brewing membership anger at these plans now needs to be captured and aimed collectively and decisively at the employer.

A Jobs and Staffing specific weekly bulletin will be produced updating branches on progress. A Jobs and Staffing special edition of Oracle has been produced and will be out shortly providing important information on the campaign and how branches can play a crucial role in building support amongst members.

All our reps are working hard to deliver for members in their branches. The employers’ cynical attempt to undermine our democratic rights through the threats to remove check off and chip away at our facility time will not work as long we stick together and fight collectively in our common interests against an increasingly hostile employer. We remain committed to talking to the department positively about jobs and staffing in HMRC, however as the closure decision on the Enquiry Centres shows they are clearly not listening. The only way they will listen is if they feel the widespread anger that exists – including our ability to disrupt their plans. We can only do this in an organised and united way.

Your branch wants to know what ideas you have in tackling the issues we face and what action you, as members, are willing to take so we can help shape the national campaign. Please send us your comments and ideas to campaigns@pcssewrc.org.uk before  April 11th

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PCS Secures Major Parliamentary Debate On Enquiry Centres

A Westminster Hall debate took place on Tuesday as a result of PCS intervention

“The taxpayers most likely to be prevented from accessing the proposed new service as a result of the cost are the unemployed, those on low incomes such as migrant workers and pensioners, and child benefit and child tax credit claimants. Such taxpayers rely heavily on the free service currently provided by HMRC staff at enquiry centres.”Ian Lavery MP, 4th March 2014

Ian Lavery MP, a member of the PCS cross-party parliamentary group of MPs, secured a Westminster Hall debate on March 4th over the HMRC decision to announce the closure of all 281 tax enquiry centres on February 8th. MPs contributing to the debate, including John McDonnell, Jonathan Ashworth, Graeme Morrice and Mark Williams, made clear their opposition to the closures.

MPs also raised concerns about the possibility of 1,300 staff having their jobs threatened and the lack of support they have been given by their employer since the decision was made to close their offices last month. Members were only given two weeks to decide whether to accept an exit package, apply for an as yet undefined prospect of redeployment or one of the limited numbers of jobs in the new service, with HMRC reneging over previous commitments to holding 1-2-1 interviews to establish personal circumstances.

MPs are sceptical over the move to a service where people would be vetted over the telephone over whether they required a face-to-face appointment. Our parliamentary group chair John McDonnell MP warned that it would put even more pressure on call centres when: “HMRC is significantly failing its existing call centre targets already.”

On the morning of the debate GEC members met with Treasury minister David Gauke to raise our concerns about the closures. This meeting only came about after PCS made strong representations to ExCom following a previous answer to a question raised at PMQs in the Commons which suggested Ministers and senior HMRC officials were regularly meeting PCS regarding the pilot when, in fact, no meetings had taken place. The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes and is the first such meeting PCS have been granted with the minister since he assumed office.

Despite the concerns raised by us and by MPs, the minister has responded that he believes the new services will allow better support to customers. We remain unconvinced and believe it is demonstrably better for staff and the public for the enquiry centres to remain open.

You can read the full text of the debate here

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140304/halltext/140304h0002.htm#14030469000001

And you can help by taking 2 minutes to complete our e-action here (please complete on your personal device and not from official computers)

http://action.pcs.org.uk/page/speakout/stop-the-closure-of-hmrc-enquiry-centres

Our campaign to defend the enquiry centres is part of our Jobs and Staffing campaign that demands:

  • An agreement on staffing to ensure that there are enough staff to do the work.
  • Permanent jobs for all FTA staff.
  • A guarantee of no compulsory redundancies and no compulsory moves beyond reasonable daily travel.
  • An end to office closures, and for HMRC to retain a visible face to face presence in our communities.
  • An agreement on workload – reducing stress, over-stretch and demands on workers.
  • An immediate scrapping of the discredited performance management system.
  • A reduction in line managers’ spans of command, to reduce pressure and to allow managers to focus more on staff support and development.
  • A fully funded HMRC tackling avoidance and evasion – but also putting public service delivery at the heart of everything it does.
  • No further privatisation of HMRC work or functions.

Organising to Win

 Whilst our ultimate aim remains to achieve agreement with HMRC through negotiation, we will, as always, need to also begin preparations immediately in case we cannot secure the commitments that we are seeking through negotiation alone. The GEC has prepared a comprehensive plan of activity to build for a ballot of all members across HMRC in the event that negotiations fail to deliver an agreement which we feel able to recommend to members.

If you support our alternative vision for HMRC and our campaign demands we urge you to contact your branch representatives to find out how they are supporting the campaign and how you can help.

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

R&C/BB/66/14

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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

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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

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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

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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

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