HMRC call centre staff vote on strike

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The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union is holding a strike ballot among HMRC staff over plans to privatise tax credits call centres, reports

The two-week ballot started on 28 October and centres on plans to award contracts this month to two private sector suppliers to provide about 100 staff each. The contract staff will be to handle tax credit queries at two HMRC call centres for 12 months, starting in January.

Although the threatened industrial action arises from the tax credits wing of HMRC, any walkouts and working to rule that result from the ballot will take place during the busy Self Assessment season. The call centre action will also run alongside the 30 November day of action over pension reforms called by the PCS and other public sector unions.

HMRC’s call-centre approach to dealing with public queries on tax matters has been a long-running source of frustration for tax advisers. In a poll on the main service issues affecting agents, “difficulty contacting HMRC by phone” was cited by 62.8% of AccountingWEB members as one of their top complaints, second only to postal delays (85.3%)

In 2008-09 the National Audit Office reported that only 57% of the 103m call attempts to HMRC’s Customer Contact Directorate were answered, down from 71% the previous year. The customer service industry benchmark is over 90%. Efforts to improve call management saw the number of calls answered go up to 73% in 2009-10, and HMRC assured the NAO it was on target to answer 90% by March 2012.

However, to assuage agent complaints, last year HMRC launched an agent phone line on 0845 366 7855 to get their queries answered (0845 300 3943 for tax credit queries).

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07th Nov 2011 15:16

Greece is

coming to the UK PDQ.

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07th Nov 2011 12:00

Two points I suspect here...

1. The point about "second only to postal delays (85.3%)" is a downright lie. Allowing letters to go unprocessed until you have months and months of backlog is not a "postal delay" it is administrative incompetence.

2. Prior to the introduction of the call centre approach, by and large the people dealing with returns were well trained and knowledgable and were responsible for specific cases. If you had an issue you knew who was dealing with it and you could agree a course of action (even when the client ends up paying tax, interest and penalties). The only problem with this was that the workloads were distributed unevenly across the various offices and there were too few people once self assessment kicked in.

Since we have now passed the point of no return on call centres and by and large taxpayers receive only inadequate or misleading information from them they may as well be cheap. At least with an outsourced call centre, you are likely to get the same poor level of service without having to pay a civil service gold encusted pension as well.

Your mileage may vary.

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07th Nov 2011 13:32

....on these days of work to rule will we notice...

any difference - i doubt it.....

Perhaps Mark Serwotka and his colleages at PCS should put forward their compelling reasons for keeping the public sector contact centre - cost/quality/performance etc - hmmm i think that report would make very sad reading.

As for data protection, one wonders how the personal income and tax affairs for the rich/famous (and MP's) get into the papers currently.....

One final point - I didn't have anything to do with the financial crisis either....


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By dbe14
07th Nov 2011 14:17

Privatise the entire of HMRC...

Perhaps all of HMRC's operations should be privatised, standards could only improve........

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07th Nov 2011 15:05

Ha ha very amusing. Have you tried contacting your bank or your energy provider lately ?

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07th Nov 2011 15:34

Let us all engage in a bit of Schadenfreude at HMRC's expense.

dbe14 wrote:

Perhaps all of HMRC's operations should be privatised, standards could only improve........

Unlikely, however if we are going to be on the receiving end of poor call centre service, I'd feel microscopically happier if I knew they were a call centre drone with little to no pension (just like yours truly), rather than than a civil servant with a gold encrusted pension.

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By dbe14
07th Nov 2011 15:23

Yes, please see my responses on the BankingWEB and EnergyWEB forums..........

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07th Nov 2011 15:42

It's 15.41

let's all have a cup of tea and reminis. ooh and a bikkie

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08th Nov 2011 10:21

Confused? I am.

For some strange reason unions seem to think that the way to protect jobs is to go on strike at the very mention of change.

Are they not aware that this only strengthens the argument that things have to change & weakens their position.

I think that public opinion will swing against them, as it will for the rest of the public sector in the pension row. But that's a different discussion.

I fear that the union reps are not so worried about their members jobs or how they are perceived as they are in getting a free meal at the "negotiations". Ever seen a slim union rep? A little bit like slim chefs, they are few & far between.


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By ralan
09th Nov 2011 12:35

Christmas shopping??

These union reps are a trully pain in the backside.

They not only do themselves a disservice but they drag the staff down with them, as previously stated they will be fed and waterred at meetings etc and most of them will still get paid by the union whilst the people they represent are on strike and hopefully not getting paid.

OMG it is coming up to Christmas, what a good time to strike and get that Christmas Shopping done.

How they have the nerve to say services will be effected by the change and security will suffer begs belief after the shambles we have seen the call centres get into, one client has been calling them for weeks to sort his affairs out and is continually been cut off after holding on for upto 40 minutes on an 0845 number, his mobile bill is ridiculous, lets get back to local numbers.Even local councils are cashing in on the 0845 racket citing convenience when everyone ringing them lives in the area and could get the call included in their telephone package, but thats another gripe.

Let them strike, the service could not be any worse than it is at the moment, then get the contractors in on lower rates if need be and see what the union reps do then.


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