Tag Archives: Strike

We all need a pay rise: Wednesday 15th October

Guidance for shift workers 14 to 16 October

This guidance is specifically for members who are rostered to work shifts during the strike action called by PCS for Wednesday 15th October. Members are asked to adhere to this guidance which supersedes any previous advice issued.

Shift workers are only being asked to take strike action for one shift.

Members will be called on to take strike action in the following priority order:

  1. a) Members who are due to work a shift that starts and finishes on the 15 October should not report for work for that shift;
  2. b) Members who are not working a shift entirely within 15 October and who are starting a shift on 15 October that crosses over into 16 October will be called upon not to report for work on the 15 October and not to work any part of that shift that crosses over into 16 October;
  3. c) Members who are not covered by ‘a’ or ‘b’ above and are due to work a shift that crosses over from 14 October to 15 October will be called on not to report for work at the start of that shift on 14 October and not to work any part of that shift that crosses over into 15 October.

If you require any further clarification on the guidance in this briefing please initially contact your branch secretary for advice.

R&C/BB/207/14

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GEC response to Chief Executive’s Letter

Members will no doubt have noted the communication issued by the Chief Executive yesterday (28 July). This Briefing is our response on behalf of the Group Executive Committee.

It is regrettable that the only method of communication between the employer and the union in the week running up to an avoidable strike is the public exchange of messages (especially when the employer denies us the opportunity to communicate with our members using the GSI system). For the avoidance of doubt, HMRC is refusing to meet with us – a point they have confirmed in writing.

After the strikes this week, we will be writing again to HMRC with positive proposals for dealing maturely with the issues which remain very important to our members and which form the basis of the trade dispute.

Until then, and as it seems to be in vogue to respond to an industrial crisis with a Q&A rather than meaningful talks designed to avoid a strike, we thought we would have a go ourselves. Attached to this Briefing therefore is an alternative view to that expressed by the Chief Executive which we hope you find helpful.

Why are we striking?

The short answer is that the intellectual rigour of our arguments against demonstrably damaging staff cuts, discredited performance management systems and an apparent obsession with costly privatisations appear to cut no ice with HMRC. Any reasonable employer would have recognised that PCS has been proved right time and time again on the matters at the basis of the dispute and taken our legitimate concerns on board. In the absence of any attempt to do so, we’ve been forced to call the strike to highlight the lack of logic in the departments approach.

 Why target the Tax Credit and Self-Assessment deadlines?

The alternative would be to strike when nobody would notice. Our approach in HMRC, as in the Passport Office and elsewhere, is to rely on the leverage available to us in highlighting how a department in chaos can be put in danger of missing important targets because there are too few staff to get the job done properly. We understand that the decision has already been made at senior levels in the department to extend the deadlines for at least three days and we look forward to ExCom confirming this.

What about vulnerable customers?

Forgive us if we disregard the crocodile tears being wept about the impact on low paid families. Up to 40% of our members rely on Tax Credits to top-up insufficient wages imposed by the government and their willing accomplices in departments such as HMRC. Those same members are working flat out to paper over the enormous cracks in the department that have opened up since senior managers started gleefully cutting tens of thousands of jobs. While we’re at it, where was the concern for customers when 281 walk-in Tax Enquiry Centres were closed by ExCom despite our opposition?

Will the strike make any difference?

Of course, there are no guarantees. We are disappointed that rather than continue negotiations up to the latest available opportunity, HMRC metaphorically “took their ball home” a full week ago and have refused to talk to us since. However, recent history shows that with a determined membership behind us, the union can make gains. Most notably, our colleagues in the Land Registry scored a significant victory earlier this month by stopping a planned privatisation in its tracks following a strike campaign based on leverage similar to ours. In HMRC, the campaign has so far secured at least 2,100 permanent jobs – a point which both sides should welcome even if the Chief Executive chooses to underplay our role in contributing to.
 

Why are they refusing to talk to the union?

It’s a tactic we are seeing more of and it has its roots at the heart of the government front benches. They hate unions because we stand in their way of a race to the bottom that results in low pay, insecure jobs and fewer employment rights. Our response has to be that we fight back, for the sake of ourselves, our colleagues and the next generation of HMRC staff who will inherit the terms and conditions that we leave behind.

What happens after the strike?

Well, HMRC will probably respond first by trying to portray support for the strikes as diminishing. This will include counting members of staff on summer holiday, off sick and those, for example on maternity leave, as “not on strike”. For our part, we will be writing to the employer again as soon as the strike is over in an attempt to re open talks designed to settle the dispute.

Does the HMRC Q&A accurately reflect the rules around picketing?

No. We look forward to welcoming as many supporters as possible to our picket lines (not including the highly paid managers who increasingly seem to spend their time monitoring entirely peaceful pickets from lobbies, security lodges and the wrong side of the gate).

Do I have to record my participation in the strike using online HR?

We were advised verbally by HMRC last week that it would be sufficient to “tell your line manager” about your participation. We have asked them to confirm this to allow us to advise members using the internal gsi  e-mail system. They haven’t responded and only a cynic would suggest that they are deliberately making life difficult for members.

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Jobs & Staffing Campaign – Further Action Called

Following a decision by the GEC last week, PCS has served a new notice of industrial action  in HMRC which means we are asking members to take a further full day of instrustrial action next week in pursuit of demands at the basis of the dispute. The action will be rolled over three days with different regions involved on different days around the peak in work anticipated on Tax Credits and Self Assessment.

The action will be staged as follows:

Wednesday 30th July: North West England and Wales
Thursday 31st July: Scotland and Midlands
Friday 1st August: Northern (inc. Cumbria, Yorkshire & Humber, Eastern, London & South East, South West & Northern Ireland.

We urge all to support the campaign on the 30th to ensure our negotiators in PCS are in the strongest position to win concessions on the various issues we are campaigning to improve, including staffing, job security, personnel management and privatisation.

To ensure that you are kept up to date on all issues that affect your branch, please ensure we have your email address by sending us an email at campaigns@pcssewrc.org.uk confirming your name and department.

Please also ensure your contact details are up to date on the national PCS website

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HMRC MESSAGE REGARDING PCS COMMUNICATION WITH MEMBERS – URGENT ACTION NEEDED

The employer contacted PCS on late afternoon on Tuesday to inform us they are withdrawing permission for PCS to use HMRC systems to cascade information with our members without prior approval from HMRC’s Employee Relations Team. We immediately responded by restating our legitimate concerns, seeking talks to clarify the issues and requesting that they reconsider. Unfortunately HMRC went ahead and communicated their decision widely without further discussion and we have been inundated with queries about what has happened and what this means.

The Department has stated that this ban is due to us asking members to await further advice from PCS on the issue of Industrial Action reporting. PCS issued a Branch Briefing (151/14) regarding an announcement that the employer had issued to staff on recording absence directly into Online HR. Members and Branches have contacted Group Office to ask what advice the union can provide on this announcement.

Subsequent exchanges with the employer have clarified their position. HMRC has stated that the content of some briefings has strayed in to areas that are prohibited under the terms of existing agreements principally the Employee Relations Agreement that states:

Industrial action and non-HMRC activities

Facilities provided for employee relations work in HMRC must not be used for the planning or conduct of any industrial action or for union activities outside HMRC unrelated to their specific role within the union.

What they are proposing is a system where the Employee Relations Team has sight of proposed Group mailings in future to ensure that the content is in line with the terms of the facilities agreement. They have assured us that they are not seeking editorial control.

No restrictions have been placed on reps ability to communicate with each other or individual members. This restriction applies to the publication of materials ‘cascaded’ to members such as Branch & Members Briefings and both Branches and the GEC will require clearance from the Employee Relations Team to issue such materials using HMRC systems until further notice. Materials should be sent to malcolm.nightingale@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

We are in the process of setting up a meeting with the employer to discuss issues around PCS communications and recording absence for Industrial Action. As the employer has clarified that the deadline for inputting absences from the recent action is 23rd July, we would hope that these discussions will enable us to provide advice to members who have raised concerns in good time to meet this deadline. However, it is clear that there are communications that we will want to issue that will not be acceptable to HMRC.

This means that we will need to urgently establish a way of issuing material without using HMRC systems if we are going to be able to communicate openly and honestly with members where we are engaged in campaigning activity.

  1. All Branches should provide us with a private email address/multiple addresses where we can send further PCS communications to. Every Branch is asked to do this as a matter of urgency. Please email Jim Knotts (jimk@pcs.org.uk) or call 0151 298 3911 with your details.
  2. Every member is asked to give us a private email address so that we can communicate with you directly. Please visit the website and click on member login. You will be asked to input your membership number and also give us your email details.
  3. Every member is asked to check our website www.pcs.org.uk (click on PCS where I work and then HMRC) on a regular basis.
  4. If you are on Facebook join our Group (PCS R&C Group) or follow our twitter page (@pcsrcgroup).

Please help us to keep in touch with you today and make sure the employer knows that the only way to end this dispute is through negotiation.

Please contact r&ccampaigns@pcs.org.uk if you have any further queries.

In solidarity

Lorna Merry                                                                         Paul Barnsley
Group President                                                               National Officer

Note: We are also collecting email address and mobile numbers locally so that we can ensure we are able to communicate with you promptly about local issues. Please email us at campaigns@pcssewrc.org.uk  with your name, department,  mobile number and, if different, the email address you would prefer us to use to let you know of any updates.

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INDUSTRIAL ACTION RECORDING – ADVICE TO MEMBERS

 The employer issued guidance to staff on the 18th June on recording absence directly into Online HR. The guidance was subsequently revised on the 24th June. Members and Branches have contacted Group Office to ask what advice the union can provide on this announcement.

PCS has not been consulted by the employer about this change to policy which will enable the employer to deduct pay from members taking strike action. We have written to the employer today seeking urgent discussions around this change to long standing policy.

Until these discussions have taken place and further clarification for these changes is made available to PCS members our advice is not to use the Online HR system to record that you were on strike. Further guidance will be issued to members once we have discussed this policy change with the employer.

We believe that this change has been introduced to mask severe staffing shortages in HMRC Service Centres. Put simply, there are not enough staff to record absence due to strike action following returns from line managers. We note that the proposed new policy does not reduce the burden on line managers. Managers in attendance are still required to prepare a list of those that they believe are on strike. Line managers will also be required to ‘authorise the absence’ via Online HR.

PCS members rightly believe that the responsibility for pay deductions and recording industrial action lies with the employer and not members.

Further guidance to members will be issued after our meeting with the employer. For further guidance or support please contact your local Branch or email r&ccampaigns@pcs.org.uk

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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