Tax workers ballot for action over private phone calls

by - 28th October 2011, 7.45 GMT

More than 21,000 Revenue and Customs workers could take action over HMRC plans to use private sector providers to answer phone calls from taxpayers.

Contracts are expected to be awarded in mid-November to two private sector suppliers to provide about 100 staff each. Private sector staff are expected to be located in two HMRC call centre sites answering tax credit calls for one year from January 2012. PCS believes the move could pose a serious threat to customer security.

PCS is launching a ballot today of 12,000 members who work in customer operations and nearly 9,000 working in the Customer Contact Directorate. These are the members immediately impacted by the potential privatisation implications and those who are most vulnerable to job losses and could therefore be retained to cover the work.

Members are being asked to support regular walkouts. They will also be asked to vote in favour of working to rule.

As HMRC intends to cut a further 10,000 posts in the department before the end of the spending review period, of which 8,000 are likely to come from customer operations, any extra work should be retained in-house and existing staff trained to help alleviate workloads.

PCS is calling on the employer to abandon plans to contract work out to the private sector and cease the tendering exercise; cover peak-time call handling by training existing permanent HMRC staff in other areas of the department and give appropriate commitments to the maintenance of future service delivery in-house.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “While we have sought to persuade the employer to abandon these plans it is clear that the tendering process is continuing and contracts will be awarded to private sector providers in mid-November. As the private staff will have access to customer data it poses a serious threat to the security of customers’ data, including financial information, and increases the potential for tax credit fraud. We are calling on HMRC to commit to delivering all services in-house with HMRC trained permanent staff.”