PCS in HM Revenue and Customs Group

Pay and Conditions in HMRC - General election special

An update on the position regarding the pay and conditions talks, and a reminder that the outcome of the election will impact on all our futures in the starkest terms.

Pay reform discussions

With the general election now set for 12 December, talks between the department and PCS – in both the wider HMRC and in VOA – have been suspended.

This is because, under the pre-election period called ‘Purdah’, the chief executive has confirmed that “Regrettably, ministerial sign-off of our pay reform business case will now have to wait until after the election, but our discussions with Cabinet Office and HM Treasury officials continue and we’ll provide you with an update on progress as soon as we can.”

PCS has written to HMRC to say that, given the chief executive’s statement, we believe that it’s not practical to pursue talks on pay and contract reform until after the election; not least because the Labour Party’s position is that if they form the next government, there’ll be significant changes to how pay is addressed in HMRC and VOA – including bringing back civil service-wide pay bargaining and introducing a £10 per hour minimum wage.

We’ve added that there is an area of background work that we could still discuss, and an area that will need to be looked at, whatever the result of the election, which is the matter of the wide variety of different contracts currently in operation within HMRC.

PCS has therefore suggested that HMRC might want to consider whether this is a piece of work we can undertake, in the available space provided by the general election.

HMRC has agreed that this is a sensible next step, and so PCS is meeting the department to begin the task of identifying all the different contracts currently in operation in the department.

Needless to say, the union’s position remains that where there are differences in terms and conditions, we will be arguing that the department ‘rounds up’ rather than ‘rounds down’.

Voting for fair pay, decent conditions and defending jobs

PCS is not affiliated to any political party, and there are no plans to do so. Our general secretary Mark Serwotka has repeatedly made it clear that even if it was to be considered, it would need a conference decision and a vote of all PCS members.

Even though PCS isn’t affiliated to any party, the government is basically our employer, and every PCS member will be affected by the outcome of this election. Obviously, it’s your vote, and it’s entirely up to you how you use it; but given all our members will be affected by the result, it’s only right and proper that PCS reminds you of the likely outcomes, depending on which party wins.

As public sector workers, the government is our boss; and that puts us in the unusual position of being able to vote to decide who our next boss is. When we do, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to forget how our current boss has treated us; not to mention how that boss has treated the public we support.

The current boss

For the last nine years our boss has effectively been the Conservative Party. What’s happened in that nine years gives us all a good idea what to look forward to if the same boss is back in charge.

In that time we’ve seen hundreds of Tax offices, Enquiry Centres, DWP offices and Courts close; we’ve seen tens of thousands of Civil Service jobs lost; we’ve seen the most brutal pay freezes and pay restraint, leaving our pay worth far less than it was nine years ago, and we’re now looking at 12,000 HMRC staff being rooted to the National Minimum Wage by next Spring. Don’t forget, our current boss’s answer to the massive low-pay problem in HMRC is to get PCS members to give up terms and conditions to pay for our own pay rise.

There have also been attacks on our pension rights. The current boss has systematically and repeatedly attacked our pension benefits; and even though their imposed changes mean we are now entitled to a 2% rebate, the current boss has refused to pay it.

Don’t forget that, at the same time that the current boss was getting rid of tens of thousands of civil servants, that same boss ripped-up our redundancy scheme, so they could sack loyal PCS members on the cheap. The union was forced to take our current boss to the High Court; and we won, meaning that all of the staff who were forced out of a job by the current boss, had their redundancy rights restored, resulting in improved redundancy payments totalling in the millions of pounds. Just to be clear, the current boss has already indicated that if they win in December, they’ll look to reinstate the cuts.

Then there is the matter of your trade union rights. Not happy with the fact that union members have to go through hoops to take industrial action, the current boss changed the law so that even if the overwhelming majority of members vote for action, if you don’t get 50% of the electorate voting, the boss declares it illegal. This is despite only a quarter of by-elections held since 1997 having had a turnout of 50%; and only three times in 43 years have local council election turnouts hit 50%.

The alternative boss

By contrast, even though we’re not affiliated to the Labour Party, since Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have been leading Labour, their team has been consulting PCS on a wide range of the public policy issues, particularly where the work is delivered by our members including tax, welfare and the justice system.

As well as that, the Labour Party have consistently supported our union on big issues affecting us as workers, such as the demand for fair pay and the fight against office closures. For members in HMRC, the alternative boss has already committed to:

  • Bringing back civil service-wide pay and conditions, ending the disparity between departments, and including a £10 per hour minimum wage
  • A fair tax system with, crucially, major investment in HMRC; and halting the HMRC office closures, pending a full review
  • Opposing detrimental changes to our redundancy scheme
  • Halting any further changes to the Civil Service pension scheme and rejecting further increases in the state pension age
  • Ending the privatisation of public services, bringing back accountability, and preventing disastrous outsourcing schemes such as the Concentrix fiasco.

As a result of the unswerving support our members have had from the party, in 2018 PCS national conference overwhelmingly agreed a motion, confirming that we believe that a Corbyn/McDonnell-led Labour government would be in the overwhelming interests of PCS members.

Having our say

The current boss hopes we’ll just look at this election as if it’s all about Brexit. We know it’s about much more than that (although the current boss’ latest Brexit ‘deal’ could see us crashing out of the Customs Union without a deal at the end of 2020, with no real idea how HMRC will cope with all the extra work).

PCS strongly believes that how the current boss treats its staff, gives you a good idea how it will treat the rest of the country. Our fellow Public Sector workers will undoubtedly agree, such as those working in Health (with record waiting times in Accident and Emergency), in other Emergency Services (with a 19% cut in the number of Firefighters since the current boss came to power), in Education (with schools and colleges seeing the worst cuts in spending since the 1970s), and in Criminal Justice (where as well as closing courts, Police numbers have been slashed by nearly 22,000).

On 12 December 2019, across the country we have an opportunity to play our part in bringing about real change. Change that won’t just benefit PCS members (although clearly it will), but will benefit the country as a whole.

Of course, for any of that to happen, you need to have registered to vote. If you haven’t registered yet, you have until 26 November 2019 to do so and can register online.  

Scotland and Northern Ireland

While PCS firmly believes that a Corbyn/McDonnell-led Labour government is in the widest interests of PCS members everywhere, the same plan for members to try to elect a better boss can’t necessarily be applied everywhere. For example, the political situation in Scotland is different; not just because of the level of devolution, but the fact that there is another party in Scotland who are also opposed to the current boss, including being opposed to the way the current boss treats workers in the UK Civil Service; and the Labour Party don’t stand candidates in Northern Ireland.

As a result, for PCS members in Scotland, the union’s advice is simply “get the current boss out”, on the grounds that, if either Labour or the SNP have a majority there, there is more likely to be a positive outcome for our members across the UK.

In Northern Ireland, we’re writing to party leaders to ask candidates where they stand on the issues that are key to PCS members, such as civil service jobs, pay and pensions; and encouraging members based in Northern Ireland to do the same.

Want to learn more?

For more information about why PCS believe that a Corbyn/McDonnell-led Labour government would be in the interest of PCS members, and the country as a whole, visit the special section of the PCS website.

As well as this, PCS has produced a booklet for members that clearly shows how a Labour government would be of the widest benefit to PCS members, also available in the Welsh language.

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