On 13 May CEO of HMRC, Jim Harra, published a pay announcement on the intranet. In this message he rightly pointed out that HMRC staff have achieved outstanding feats over the last few weeks in successfully delivering the CJRS and the SEISS scheme.
Jim referenced the high praise given to HMRC on 11 May by Boris Johnson, who said that he was ‘lost in admiration’ for our efforts, flagging the speed with which we delivered the CJRS scheme against all odds as ‘a fantastic tribute to the work of the civil service’, adding, ‘I thank them from the bottom of my heart’.
What the note from Jim leaves out is that this statement was made in response to a question asked by MP Chris Stephens. Chris, who is the chair of the PCS Parliamentary group, asked if the PM would show his appreciation to HMRC and DWP staff working tirelessly to process payments by rewarding them with an above inflation pay rise.
The answer from the PM was clear, despite PCS members, who are working flat out in HMRC, being congratulated for being the lynchpin that is currently holding the country’s economy together, while working in extremely difficult circumstances with very little training, the PM and his friends are unwilling to countenance any idea of a decent pay award. The PM in fact publicly refused to answer the question.
PCS believes that this shows utter contempt for a workforce who have not only suffered over a decade of pay freezes and paltry below inflation pay rises, in effect meaning a pay cut of around 20% when compared in inflation and the cost of living, these same workforce have also pulled out all the stops to ensure that the new schemes are a success.
How well the CJRS has been delivered is a testament to the dedication of all staff in HMRC, thousands of whom have continued to travel into offices during the peak of pandemic. Staff have risked their health and that lives and that of their loved ones in doing so, while in thousands of cases being paid only pennies above the statutory national minimum wage. Some colleagues have already tragically lost their lives as a result. Every member of staff who has answered a query over the phone or via webchat and helped a business to access funds to pay employees, so that workers can feed their families, deserves high praise but they also deserve to be paid a living wage.
The Cabinet Office released details in late May setting out a further year of below inflation increases, the rationale for this being that the current crisis will cost the country in the region of £340 billion, this is a huge number however if we put this into context, after the financial crash of 2008 the banks received a bailout of £800 billion.
There have also been reports that we are heading for the biggest national deficit since the end of the Second World War, we need to remind those in charge that it was in the aftermath of that conflict that Britain built the NHS and the welfare state, measures that led to the economic boom of the 50s and 60s and vast improvements in health and wellbeing of an entire population.
In the last few months the world has changed and while the government, Treasury and our employer may not want to recognise this, PCS members in HMRC most definitely have. Many of you have already written to the GEC or posted questions about pay on staff forums. We need to make our voices louder than we ever have before and say clearly enough is enough.
We had our first meeting about 2020 pay on 11 June, at this point, despite several intranet articles setting out that HMRC was meeting with the Cabinet Office, the department was still to get approval for its long-anticipated pay and contract reform business case. At the time of writing PCS has still not had sight of any of their proposals.
There will be more updates coming soon, once we have had further meetings with the employer, however the best way that any member of staff in HMRC can help PCS to achieve a decent and deserved pay award for all is for you to get involved in your union. If you are not already a member then please join, if you are a member then please make sure that your details are up to date so that you will receive regular updates.
Assistant group secretary
(Lead negotiator for pay)