Tag Archives: Staff Shortages

FLEXIBLE RESOURCING – FURTHER ADVICE TO MEMBERS

MB/21/14 advised members that PCS had called action over the employers’ flexible resourcing programme.

Members have told us in no certain terms that they do not support the employers’ latest attempt to mask the impact of their careless and arbitrary cuts by pulling thousands of staff away from their normal duties, such as tackling non-compliance, to answer calls in Contact Centres and “pop-up” centres around the UK.

PCS Conference voted unanimously to reject this approach. Members have also voted yes for action and to oppose cuts in HMRC and to demand enough staff to do the work properly.

We have therefore asked all members to take action on Flexible Resourcing to expose the staffing crisis in HMRC. As a first step members were asked to submit a letter refusing to volunteer for the flexible resourcing project or withdrawing their agreement to volunteer where they had previously done so.

Since MB/21/14 was issued we have been contacted by members who have reported:

  1. That they have submitted a letter and have now been contacted in writing by their Line Manager
  2. That they have not submitted a letter but have been volunteered by their Line Manager without their consent.

Our advice to members on the next steps to take is as follows:

  1. If a member has not submitted one of the template letters attached to MB/21/14 they must do so as soon as possible.
  2. Where a member has submitted a letter and has received a written response from their Line Manager the letter attached (At Annex A) to this Briefing should be sent to the Line Manager in reply by the deadline date given in the employers’ letter.
  3. We advise members at every grade – including Line Managers – to submit their appropriate letters. We want these issues escalated through the line management chain.
  4. Members are not required to move onto Flexible Resourcing until their concerns have been discussed and the necessary HMRC policy complied with. The letter attached to this briefing is directly linked to the employers own policies and they are obliged to comply with every request set out in the letter.
  5. HMRC cannot move people in a mandatory fashion if it breaches their own policies on health and safety, performance management, training or terms and conditions.
  6. It is important that members are encouraged to tailor the letter as much as possible to their own individual circumstances. Branches are asked to assist members with this task.

PCS calls upon all members to support our campaign of activity around Flexible Resourcing. This action has been called as part of our Jobs & Staffing campaign. It is important to note however that we are not at this stage asking members to boycott the programme and we are explicitly NOT asking members to take any action that could lead to disciplinary action.

We understand that members feel under pressure to demonstrate ‘positive behaviours’ and consequently to volunteer to take on this new work. However we also know that members are angry about being taken away for their own important work and asked to help the employer mask acute staffing shortages that it has made worse this week following the announcement by Lin Homer on Wednesday of yet more job cuts.

We do not believe that HMRC can compel members to move to a new location, or to undertake new work at short notice which they have not been adequately trained or equipped to do and members should resist this.

 Fundamentally however our strength comes not from our contracts of employment, but from standing together and taking action together. When we do this, we can push HMRC back and we can win concessions.

Following the successful week of rolling action across HMRC last week we now need to ensure that we maintain the pressure on the employer and that we continue to highlight the need for investment in more staff in HMRC and an end to job cuts, site closures and an end to the attacks on our terms and conditions of service.

Please support the Jobs and Staffing Campaign – do not help HMRC mask the disastrous impact of its job cuts and inadequate staffing levels

In solidarity

 Lorna Merry                                                                         Paul Barnsley
Group President                                                                 National Officer

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WEEK OF ROLLING STRIKES ACROSS HMRC NEXT WEEK – ALL OUT!!

SEND A MESSAGE TO HOMER – HMRC MUST IMPROVE

Lin Homer intranet message – PCS reply

Members may have seen the intranet message from the Chief Executive, Lin Homer, sent on the 16th June. In the message she states that she wants to correct ‘factual inaccuracies’ in PCS communications on jobs and staffing issues.

PCS is issuing this briefing to members to set out the facts fully and we invite you to make your own mind up about the need for us to take action next week.

Claim – Lin Homer says “Despite what PCS says, we are talking to them all the time about what is happening”

Reality – HMRC has announced that it is imposing a derisory pay award of 1%. There has been no negotiation with PCS on pay. HMRC is attempting to impose changes to banked and anticipated leave arrangements. There was no negotiation with PCS in advance of this announcement. HMRC announced plans to close 14 sites across HMRC and fully withdraw lines of business in 9 other areas. There was no negotiation with PCS in advance of this decision. HMRC is attempting to forcibly move staff around the department to cover staffing shortfalls. There has been no negotiation or agreement over flexible resourcing.

Claim – “William Hague and I last met with PCS on 9th May”

Reality – This is true. Lin Homer meets PCS for 1 hour every 6 months. Members may wish to consider if this represents “talking to PCS all the time”. Lin Homer consistently refused to meet with us to discuss our concerns around jobs and staffing and private conversations with her officials in the Employee Relations team have revealed that neither Lin Homer or William Hague are remotely interested in negotiations with PCS to address the concerns of their staff about their plans to cut a further 22,000 jobs between now and 2016.

Claim – “PCS talks about the need for ExCom to press for greater investment”

Reality – This is absolutely true. In response the employer has repeatedly refused to work with PCS to make the case for additional resources, better terms and conditions for staff or to highlight the proven ‘spend and save’ benefit of employing more staff across Lines of Business. Instead ExCom unthinkingly draw up plans to slash more jobs and close more sites. Far from ‘Building our Future’ their strategy risks ‘Destroying our Department’

Claim “In terms of flexible resourcing, we think it is right that we move people to where customer demand is”

Reality – HMRC’s own planning reveals a massive shortfall in staffing resources outside of peak periods. Despite this HMRC are planning to make 2,200 staff in contact centres compulsorily redundant in November and have put forward not one idea about how they will manage the growing crisis due to lack of staff bar forcibly moving staff around HMRC to try to cover up the mess they are making

Finally members will note that Lin Homer has absolutely nothing to say about the imposed performance management system – despite this being a central issue at dispute and despite 23,000 staff participating in the employer’s own pulse survey and rejecting the completely discredited PMR system.

PCS members are urged to support the rolling programme of strike action next week. The PCS Jobs & Staffing campaign is your chance to tell HMRC management that they ‘Must Improve’. We know members are angry and frustrated about:

The discredited performance management system and the way you are managed as a result

  • Another pay award below inflation (non consolidated again for staff at pay band maxima)
  • The constant denigration of staff in the department and our hard won terms and conditions
  • The prospect of 22,000 more job cuts, mass site closure and no clue from the employer about how they are going to do this or pay for it
  • The refusal of senior leaders to make the case for investment and more staff
  • The future of HMRC and the role it can play in communities and in public service delivery

We need to now take action together to persuade the employer to think again. Members are asked to take one day of strike action on the following days:

Monday 23 June: Scotland and northern England
Tuesday 24 June: Yorkshire and Humberside, and eastern England
Wednesday 25 June: London and the south east, and south west England
Thursday 26 June: Midlands and Northern Ireland
Friday 27 June: North west England and Wales

We urge you to support your union and support the action next week.

In solidarity

Lorna Merry  – Group President
Paul Barnsley – National Officer
R&C/MB/23/14  

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Banked Leave

Members will have seen the announcement from Chief People Office, William Hague, today regarding the removal of Banked Leave.

PCS has not agreed these changes and we are taking urgent legal advice on the employers’ proposals.

PCS (and representatives from our sister union ARC) met with the employers representatives on 3rd April where we were informed of their plans to change banked leave arrangements.

There has been no negotiation or consultation on the announced imposed changes and we can confirm that we have not met the employer on this issue since the imposed decision to suspend Banked Leave was imposed by the employer last year.

Our advice to all members is as follows:

1.    Do not in any circumstances agree to any action taken by your line manager in line with these imposed changes.

2.    If your employer attempts to force any changes to your Banked Leave then you are strongly advised to formally write to your line manager pointing out that you believe Banked Leave arrangements are contractual and that any changes to your arrangements are not agreed by you and that you are complying under duress.

3.    PCS is taking urgent legal advice on the ability of the employer to force you to take at least 5 days of Banked Leave in each performance year. We do not believe that the employer can compel people to do this.

Background

Members may recall that imposed changes for banking leave were suspended in May 2013 as part of HMRCs changes to Departmental terms and conditions.

The rationale that the employer gave at the time for the suspension was that HMRC had a deficit equivalent to 191,000 days on their balance sheet and it would be a cause for concern should people access the leave at times that were not convenient for the business.

PCS did not and does not agree with the assumptions made or conclusions drawn by HMRC on the banking of leave and we have pointed the employer to the fact that the amount of banked leave has reduced from 191,000 to 131,000 is evidence that staff and members are using their banked leave appropriately.

PCS believes that Banked Leave is an important term and condition of employment for members and promotes a good work life balance and offers staff flexibility in their working lives. Banked Leave is used for many reasons for example family occasions such as weddings or holidays to visit family abroad.

We have pointed out to the employer there are also good reasons why staff have to bank leave – like pressure of work, building up too much time off in lieu (TOIL) and not being able to take it, excessive travel and a growing expectation in some areas that people will travel to undertake their HMRC duties.

We believe that the employers’ decision is driven by inadequate staffing levels in HMRC. Put bluntly Banked Leave is being withdrawn because job cuts across Lines of Business have gone too far and there are simply not enough staff left to do the job. The withdrawal of Banked Leave is another piece of crisis management and a crude attempt to mask severe staffing shortages.   

We have pointed out that if HMRC considered their location strategy and their attitude to work/life balance then people may not have to bank their leave. Further, we have emphasised that the removal of a contractual condition of employment, either overtly set out or one which has implicitly become a contractual term over time, then we would need to take legal advice. 

The employer has stated in response is that members of staff are banking leave in order to take it before retirement so they can leave at an earlier date. Members may draw their own conclusions as to why people want to leave HMRC at the earliest possible date, but the employer has failed to produce any evidence to show this is the case.

Anticipating leave

PCS is particularly concerned about the erosion of terms and conditions that allow for anticipating leave.

Currently staff can anticipate up to ten days from the next year’s leave allocation.

From 1st May, this will be reduced to five days and staff will only be able to anticipate leave in the last calendar month of your leave year and only with Line Manager approval now.

The number of days leave that you’ll be able to carry over from one leave year to another will remain at a maximum of ten days but only with the agreement of your manager.

We are aware that these imposed changes have already created problems for some PCS Representatives and their planned attendance at our conference next month. We are raising this with the employer as a matter of urgency.

Next Steps

William Hague’s announcement recognises that these imposed changes are unlikely to be popular.

PCS has not been provided with any evidence or reasonable rationale for these changes which have not been subject to negotiation or consultation with us. We will now take the following steps:

 1.    We will register a formal disagreement over these changes and depending on their employers response move into formal dispute over these imposed changes.

2.    We are taking urgent legal advice over the imposed removal of what we believe is a contractual right to banked leave. 

3.    We have asked for a copy of the equality impact assessment that the employer is required to carry out before attempting to impose these changes

4.    We continue to ask the employer to provide evidence of any burden on the department that cannot reasonably be borne that arise from Banked Leave arrangements.

5.    We will continue to use the PCS Jobs & Staffing Campaign to produce evidence to prove that these imposed changes are being driven by inadequate staffing levels.

Members are advised to take the following steps:

1.    Do not in any circumstances agree to any action taken by your line manager in line with these imposed changes.

2.    If your employer attempts to force any changes on you then you are advised to formally write to your line manager pointing out that you believe Banked Leave arrangements are contractual and that any changes to your arrangements are not agreed by you and that you are complying under duress.

3.    PCS is taking urgent legal advice on the ability of the employer to force you to take at least 5 days of Banked Leave in each performance year. We do not believe that the employer can compel people to do this.

4.    Please contact your Branch for advice and support on any issue related to Banked Leave or contact r&ccampaigns@pcs.org.uk

 Further information will be issued to members shortly.

Paul Barnsley – National Officer
Margi Rathbone – Deputy Group Secretary

R&C/BB/97/14

                                                                          

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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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