PCS strike means no HMRC fines – yet

PCS says tax office staff pay rates will be undermined by private agency staff doing the same job on almost £6000 per year less
by - 31st January 2012, 7.00 BST

PCS members at two tax office contact centres are walking out on one of the busiest days of the tax year.

Today’s action has forced the HMRC to push back the deadline by two days for people to submit their on-line tax returns or avoid a fine.

The one-day walkout is in opposition to year-long trials by two private sector companies, Sitel and Teleperformance, due to start next month at two enquiry centres in Cumbria and West Lothian.

PCS expects up to 20,000 members to take part. Enquiry lines will be closed or seriously delayed for the tens of thousands of people who will use the service.

HMRC has estimated 600,000 of the 9m people who fill in online self assessment tax forms would put off submitting them until today – with around 15%, or 90,000 people, likely to phone for assistance or advice.

Anticipating heavy disruption due to the industrial action, HMRC has been forced to postpone its annual deadline for submitting the tax returns.

PCS says the introduction of private sector employers is unnecessary, but also threatens to undermine pay rates and other conditions for existing workers.

The starting salary of a contact centre employee is £17,580. The equivalent annual salary proposed for a SITEL worker at the Cumbria office translates as £11,830 – almost £6,000 less and similar to pay rates dating back to 2002.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members in tax offices want to do a good job and provide the best possible advice and help to taxpayers, but there are fewer of them working in fewer offices as a result of misguided and damaging cuts.

“Instead of making even more cuts and throwing public money at private companies, ministers should be investing in their staff and tackling the billions in tax avoided and evaded by the super-rich.”

UnionNews will have a film report from Lillyhall in Cumbria later.

You can post messages of support on our solidarity page here