HMRC Bootle members in strike ballot over unhealthy working patterns

28 Feb 2020

PCS is holding an industrial action ballot of HMRC members working in personal tax operations in Bootle over the working conditions of staff undertaking telephony work.

We have highlighted to management that relentless telephony work is having a damaging effect on members’ mental health; while some members unable to undertake telephony are facing threats, bullying and discrimination.

Our demands include that:

  • Members have to spend no more than 50% of their time on telephony duties
  • There are safeguards for members unable to do telephony work for health reasons
  • An agreement is reached on how customer services work is undertaken going forward
  • Certain discipline cases currently under consideration on the subject are dropped.

The issue of unhealthy working conditions was first highlighted in a report produced by PCS Bootle Taxes Branch in August, based on personal testimonies from 49 branch members. Senior management both locally and nationally are aware of the report, but have yet to take any action.

Even though some members are unable to undertake telephony work due to physical or mental health conditions, and other work is available, we have been forced to deal with a high volume of cases where members have felt pressured or bullied into telephony work, despite occupational health reports advising against it.

This issue came to a head when a number of members were threatened with disciplinary action unless they agreed to return to telephony work.

Martin Kelsey, PCS Revenue and Customs Group secretary, said:  “This dispute is about safeguarding the health and well-being of our members. There is plenty of non-telephony work that these members can be undertaking, which would allow for a blend of duties and relieve the constant pressure caused by relentless telephony.

It is only the widespread under-staffing within HMRC that’s leading the department to try to force these members into working patterns that are damaging to their health.”

The ballot opens on Monday (2 March) and closes at noon on 20 March.

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