20,000 tax staff stage ‘lightning’ walkout

MORE THAN 20,000 tax staff will stage ‘lightning’ walkouts today, over plans by HM Revenue & Customs to bring in private companies to do their work.

The walkout is in protest at bringing in Sitel and Teleperformance to run call handling trials in HMRC tax credit contact centres in Lillyhall, Cumbria, and Bathgate in Scotland. Investment should be made in current staff, rather than calling in private companies, argues union PCS.

Further strikes are planned during the month, with self assessment filing deadline day 31 January also targeted.

Staff will walk out at 10am for 30 minutes and again at 4.30pm. Anyone on a shift that finishes after 7pm will leave work 30 minutes early.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “When jobs in HMRC and the civil service are being cut in their tens of thousands, it is entirely wrong to start handing contracts to private companies.

“Instead of privatising ever more of our public services, the government should be investing in its own staff to ensure they are equipped and trained to provide the essential services they are proud to deliver.”

An HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC is not privatising existing HMRC contact centre jobs but we are determined to improve the service we provide to our customers and this means considering a variety of options including drawing on the knowledge and experience of external contact centre operators. Industrial action is unwarranted and unnecessary.

“We are doing everything possible to maintain contact centre services to the public and we will continue talking to the unions to address their concerns.”

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