HMRC redundancies may spark strike action, PCS threatens

ONE of the largest trade unions in the UK is threatening to strike following HMRC’s “entirely unnecessary and inflammatory” decision to issue 150 compulsory redundancy notices to its staff.

This move from HMRC is just one part of a major restructuring initiative that includes the closure of 137 local tax offices by 2020, a move which will affect over 60,000 staff as the government department looks to move towards a more digital administration.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which has over 200,000 members from the civil service and government agencies, said it it is considering industrial action after the tax department breached its own and civil service-wide agreements on handling redundancy situations. .

It has been reported that low-level administrative staff working in HMRC compliance centres, local compliance and debt management teams have already been told that they are to lose their jobs.

These job cuts come at a time where the government is looking to cut civil service redundancy pay, having recently released a consultation document on cross-public sector action on exit payment terms.

‘This is not how reasonable employers behave’

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It is entirely unnecessary and inflammatory to tell these 150 staff there is no future for them in the civil service when staff are being recruited to do similar work.

“This is not how reasonable employers behave and we will be considering all options, including industrial action.”

In 2013, over 2,000 HMRC workers took part in a half-day walk-out in protest against cuts to pensions and working conditions.

Responding to the threat of industrial action, a spokesperson for the government department said: “HMRC does everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies but the reality is we no longer need the mass processing roles of the past as we move to more skilled and specialist roles.

“We have been through a lengthy and rigorous process to deploy colleagues to other areas of work within HMRC and this work has been on-going since 2014. We have consulted with Departmental trade unions to make sure that we’ve considered all possible redeployment opportunities.”

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at ACCA, told Accountancy Age that both parties need to stop publically arguing and bring discussions to the negotiating table.

“Morale is rock-bottom at HMRC right now. The revenue needs to be very careful about where they’re going with these compulsory redundancies.

“HMRC and the PCS need to sit down at the table and start negotiating. Both sides need to draw breath and take a step back and sort it out rather than putting taxpayers at a disadvantage,” continued Chowdhury, who added that HMRC are in need of more resources as it looks to become one of the most “digitally advanced tax administrations in the world”.

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