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HMRC staff union suspends industrial action

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The Public and Commercial Services Union has suspended further industrial action after reaching agreement with HMRC concerning ‘job cuts, privatisation and attendance management’.

During the summer PCS members in HMRC had taken a ‘sustained programme of industrial action’, including strike action and action short of a strike, PCS said on 31 August.

‘There were plans to stage walkouts on 3 and 7 September but all action will now be suspended for an initial period of two months to allow for further talks on the issues in dispute. The agreement confirms the guarantee of up to 1,000 new jobs, addresses the use of temporary and fixed term appointments and a commitment that means PCS’s full involvement in the current trial of private companies in contact centres.’

The union said it welcomed HMRC’s ‘commitment to work productively with the trade unions to bid for extra funding in HMRC to close the tax gap, properly assess the effectiveness of the attendance management policy, give thousands of temporary staff the ability to apply for permanent jobs and give recognition that HMRC people are preferable to deliver public services’.

It would now focus on ensuring that HMRC implemented a number of commitments, including ‘using the re-investment secured as part of the Spending Review 2010 to create an additional 8,000 jobs in compliance, including an extra 3,000 external recruits’. But it recognised that ‘these measures do not change the fact that HMRC is committed to reducing staffing levels to 56,000 by [April 2015].

Tax gap

An ‘enabling agreement’ posted on the PCS website indicated that HMRC undertook to make the case for additional re-investment to ‘tackle tax avoidance, evasion and uncollected tax debt and to tackle the tax “gap”’. The commitment was made on the assumption that ‘the department is successful in generating an additional £7bn in tax revenue by 2015, as it is committed to do under the terms of the £917m re-investment’.

An HMRC spokesperson told Tax Journal: ‘We are naturally pleased to have reached agreement with the PCS. We are committed to an open dialogue with our trade unions as the best approach to addressing concerns.

‘We are only in the second full year of the spending settlement so it would be premature to speculate about future funding decisions. We will obviously want to build on our successes and reinvestment is playing an important part in the success of our current compliance yields. However, HMRC funding decisions are a matter for ministers.'