Tuesday morning began with a minute's silence, honouring the victims of the devastating bombing in Manchester that had occurred the night before.
Two motions on redundancies started the day's business, including a plan from criminal justice branch to support staff in offices set for closure.
The treasurer – Hamish Drummond – and his financial report was followed by assistant general secretary Chris Baugh, who spoke of the importance of solidarity both within the HMRC group and with other PCS groups when it comes to disputes with the employer.
“PCS as a union is feared because of its ability to organise its members. If we can do more of that we can win more gains and improvements” – Chris Baugh
The most significant part of the day was the HR section, led by Salford branch's motion 46 on the growing trend of HMRC job advertisements not matching the actual jobs. This was followed by EM5 from Glasgow and Clyde, drawing attention to and demanding action over the “rape clause” legislation recently introduced to tax credits. In her moving speech, Taylor Riach discussed the trauma for members of the public having to justify making a claim for a third child as well as the effect on our members who may have been in a similar position themselves, as well as the lack of training in dealing with these types of queries.
Other motions in the section included making a change to guidance on compensation in dismissal cases; clarifying the role of the HR caseworker when dealing with sick absence and conduct and discipline cases; and obtaining the option for a phased return to work for members coming off parental leave. All were carried unanimously, giving the negotiating team an important mandate for the year ahead.
Moving the GEC's motion on PMR (motion 69), Clive Bryant discussed the minimal changes to performance management agreed by HMRC, and how often reps found themselves in the needs improvement pile because of their union work “getting in the way of” their official duties. Speaking to motion 70, Alan Strachan of Edinburgh branch outlined how PMR has been shown to discriminate against members.
“So we welcome the fact HMRC are willing to engage with us, but we must set the agenda and push to get rid of this divisive process [replacing it with one] that doesn't discriminate, isn't linked to pay, isn't subjective and is fair to all” – Alan Strachan
All PMR motions were carried unanimously.
Three final guest speakers addressed conference on Tuesday morning. Secretary of the PCS Credit Union Es Chorlton advised of the expansion of the credit union and the various new products available. Phil Green, national committee chair of the associated and retired members section (ARMs) encouraged activists to speak to their local members and encourage those who are or will be leaving the department to transfer their membership to ARMs. He also spoke of how ARMs members – as one of the largest groups in PCS – can be mobilised to assist other groups when campaigning locally.
We also heard from Bob Simm, a sacked PCS rep from the Ministry of Justice whose campaign against his victimisation and appeal for reinstatement is being backed by PCS. We wish him all the best going forward, and you can keep track of Bob's ongoing campaign on his blog The lonely trade unionist.
Three motions were heard from our brothers and sisters in the VOA section covering the possibility of homeworking as a way to retain experienced staff, supporting our senior manager members who might be compelled to work from home on their official laptops to meet business demands, and seeking an independent review of the continuous improvement process within VOA. All were passed unanimously.
After a brace of motions on continuous improvement and (lack of) training, and a brief guillotine section, it was almost time to wind up. The results of the block vote elections were announced, and the president closed conference with a final reminder for activists to download the HMRC Building an Uncertain Future: The Cuts Don't Work report and share it among all the members in their branches to keep up the momentum in our fight against the department's plan.