Save our security - HMRC Guarding Service under threat
Over the years there have been sporadic threats to completely outsource security guarding. 10 years ago HMRC made a decision in principle to privatise its security guards' jobs, PCS branches responded with a campaign aimed at reversing the decision. This proved successful with ministerial intervention leading to the privatisation proposals being dropped.
In November 2016 HMRC estates announced that it would be conducting a review of the requirement for the security guarding arrangements at buildings across the future HMRC estate. The review was to be conducted on the assumption that there were three realistic options: in-house, outsourced or a mix of the two. The original intention was for the review to be concluded in time for a decision to be taken in January 2017.
PCS negotiators made it clear from the outset that the only acceptable outcome to the review would be a decision to bring the security guarding work fully in-house. Currently HMRC employs about 200 staff directly on security related duties while 150 people are employed via contracted agencies.
In August 2017 PCS was advised that a decision was imminent despite little information on the review being made available. PCS negotiators intervened to remind management about the appropriate consultation arrangements that govern potential privatisation activity. This resulted in a response from the HMRC CEO committing to a period of "meaningful consultation" and& confirming that no decision had yet been taken.
We engaged thoroughly with the review despite the stance of estates being clear that its preferred option would be to fully privatise the security guarding work. PCS branch representatives and members attended meetings convened by estates management and made it absolutely clear that they opposed privatisation. GEC negotiators co-ordinated the formal response from the union with the privatisation proposals being challenged in a series of meetings with the employer's representatives. A particular focus for PCS in those discussions was the requirement for HMRC to properly risk assess its proposals. It is interesting to note that, despite the acknowledged critical nature of the work being discussed, the employer has been reticent to publicise its plans to the wider HMRC staff. HMRC ignored requests from PCS to publicise and extend the "meaningful consultation" to include the views of everyone who would be affected by the outcome. It was therefore left to PCS to alert and update staff on the progress of the consultation; a remarkable state of affairs.
At the start of the consultation the employer made it clear that its proposed solution was to fully outsource the provision. We made the case for an alternative option which would be for this service to be delivered by a directly-employed workforce.
During the consultation process we made the case for appropriate risk assessments to be carried out so that the service delivery options could be properly assessed. We were able to reach agreement that common service standards should be applied across the retained HMRC estate. We have also agreed that a substantial amount of further work is required and the employer’s representatives wrote to us to confirm that this would include:
- Refinement of the new access control service standard (ACSS)
- Review of the pilot arrangements in place at Ruskin Square, Croydon
- Completion of a full equality impact assessment
- Completion of a full people impact assessment
- Health and safety risk impact assessments of the new ACSS.
Critically, HMRC has also conceded that the option of mounting an in-house bid would need to be considered.
This is important work and we need to ensure that we continue to influence the outcome of this activity, but we do have a fundamental disagreement with HMRC on who the service should be delivered by.
Our security at stake
With the final decision still pending on how the security arrangements across the HMRC estate will be delivered the GEC is encouraging branches and members to make sure that the requirement for in-house provision is embedded as a campaign demand in all campaign activity that is being organised within the Revenue and Customs group.
A working group initially consisting of representatives from branches with civil service guards in membership has been set up and helped to formulate the union's approach & response to HMRCs proposals. All branches are being asked to appoint a representative to assist in co-ordinating the Our security at stake campaign locally.
The campaign will replicate the features of previously successful anti-privatisation activity, but noting that HMRC has accepted that there are just two options: an in-house service delivered by civil servants or a privatised arrangement, this now becomes a real opportunity for us to make the case for a comprehensive security provision which would mean that for the first time all security guards are directly employed by HMRC.
The campaign is given further focus with the constant reminders of the mistake of relying on private sector contractors, in the light of the collapse of Carillion and the fragility being displayed by other private sector facilities management operators.
This is a campaign that we can win if we can mobilise members in support of the demand for an in-house security guard service. The campaign will formally launch in April with campaign material being delivered directly to all branches. Leaflets and petitions will be available to promote the campaign within HMRC so please make sure that you play your part in maximising the response in your workplace.