HMRC staff continue strikes over job cuts
About 135,000 workers from HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions are striking this week in protest over cuts to jobs and pensions.
Jobcentre and benefit-office staff from the Department for Work and Pensions will join tax workers from HM Revenue and Customs in a series of regional walkouts during the week (see schedule below).
The strikes are part of a three-month campaign of industrial action by 250,000 public-sector workers who are protesting against cuts to pay, pensions, jobs and working conditions, said the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents about 55,000 HMRC workers. The industrial action began with a national walkout on Budget Day on 20 March.
HMRC has cut about 37,000 jobs since 2005, according to the PCS, and plans to cut about a further 10,000 jobs by 2015 to reduce costs. These job cuts have left the government department unable to properly tackle the "estimated £120bn lost every year through tax evasion, avoidance and non-collection," the PCS said. The DWP has cut 20,000 staff since May 2010, the PCS added.
"[HMRC and DWP] workers are the backbone of our country's public services and do not deserve to be treated with contempt by ministers" - PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka
The strikes come as the PCS is campaigning to stop government plans to close all 281 of HMRC's walk-in tax advice centres in the UK and divert enquiries to "already overloaded jobcentres". Pilot closures of 13 enquiry centres in the North East of England began earlier this week.
The PCS says that the closure of HMRC's enquiry centre network will cost more than it will save and disproportionately disadvantage pensioners, people on low incomes, migrant workers and disabled people.
Last week, PCS agreed to hold a new national strike across its civil-service members near the end of June if the government continues to refuse to negotiate.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "These workers are the backbone of our country's public services and do not deserve to be treated with contempt by ministers who are refusing to even talk to us about the cuts they are imposing."
The spokesman added that no HMRC jobs will be lost during the pilot to replace enquiry centres in the North East with a new mobile support service.
"HMRC is committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies, and if the pilot is a success, we will seek solutions to help affected staff find new roles. This is not about cutting jobs, it's about creating a better service for customers which is both flexible and affordable," he said.
- 3 June: North East and Yorkshire and Humber
- 4 June: North East and Coumbria (and HMRC staff in Northern Ireland)
- 5 June: London and the South East and the Midlands
- 6 June: Wales and South West England
- 7 June: Scotland and Eastern England