PCS Left Unity: HMRC Union busting plans revealed

PCSLU.jpgRecent events in the R&C group have now been put into perspective after PCS obtained a copy of a leaked document that outlines HMRCs plans for dealing with the union. Attached is a leaflet that comrades should use to advertise this politically motivated attack.

Members in the R&C group have been in a long running dispute over jobs, office closures and performance management. The latest phase has seen members take strike action in June, July & August supported by an overtime ban.

During this time HMRC were reluctant to offer any meetings other than those to which unions have a statutory right. This has meant that good faith industrial relations in the Department had in reality been deteriorating for some time.
However, they were forced into negotiations and PCS agreed to suspend industrial action as an act of good faith while talks took place.

R&C group negotiators believed good progress was being made and were expecting an offer on job security and performance management at a meeting planned for 28 October. However at that meeting management walked out offering a spurious excuse that PCS had breached trust by reporting, in an article in the groups journal (Oracle), that an eleventh hour decision to find jobs for 39 staff in Dundee who were prepared to take strike action was a victory.

PCS HMRC members have taken industrial action to defend jobs, something the employer is using every tool at its disposal to prevent

Furthermore, following HMRCs withdrawal from talks a number of senior reps in the R&C group received letters from HR stating that they had exhausted their facility time for the current accounting period and would not be allowed to carry out any more union duties until after April 2015, this despite showing the opposite in their facilities returns.

Leaked document
It now transpires that this has been a deliberate, secret and political attempt to destabilise PCS.

The document in PCS possession states HMRC’s senior management believes its “business interests” are best served by an approach that “reduces the influence of the unions”. It sets out three options including pursuing an active strategy to diminish the influence of PCS activists and sets out a range of measures to achieve this including:

  • further reduction of facility time from key PCS office holders
  • exploration of encouraging HMRC employees away from PCS representation, including but not limited to other workable (more progressive) alliances and potentially establishment of direct consultative employee forum arrangements starting in those areas were PCS membership is low.
  • Proactive targeting of union communications to better represent the facts, delivered through face to face conversation rather than tit for tat written material.
  • Isolation of PCSs leadership from all but statutory required discussion with HMRC.

PCS is one of only a handful of unions that has consistently opposed and fought against the attacks by consecutive governments so it will come as no surprise to those on the left that these tactics are being used by the establishment to try and break us.

Thatcher and the coal board used the same strategy to destroy the mining industry, encouraging miners to join the scab union UDM before even the mines they controlled were closed. We now also have evidence that HMRC have met with representatives from a newly formed staff association which can only be seen as the start of an attempt to divide and rule staff in HMRC.

This isn’t the first time these individuals in HMRC have used these tactics in the civil service.

Lin Homer (HMRC Chief Executive), William Hague (HMRC Chief People Officer) and Joe Dugdale (HMRC HR Director) are the ExCom mangers driving this process and have form for exactly the same type of behaviour from their time at the Home Office. PCS stood firm in the face of their hostility there – and we have to do the same now that HMRC has inherited the problem.

Our Response
These attacks should not be seen in isolation or as a R&C group problem. It is a very clear political threat that not only affects the rest of PCS but also the whole of the trade union movement.

The national union as a key role to play working with the R&C group and a response should also come from the TUC and the whole labour movement who should condemn the actions in HMRC and insist that politicians address why HMRC are concentrating their efforts and resources on a union busting strategy rather than focusing on closing the £120 billion tax gap.

HMRC have indicated their intention to end check off and the timetable is likely to be the same as the DWPs. This means after March 2015 PCSs ability to effectively organise and fight against an increasingly hostile employer will seriously diminish unless these two largest groups in the union are able to sign the majority of their current members up to Direct Debit.

The R&C GEC have a long term plan in place and are currently arranging car park meetings and getting the message out about this orchestrated plot to undermine a union. Left Unity comrades should help and assist in any way they can it is crucial that every member is informed of the vicious attack.

The paper makes it clear that there is a clear political strategy to push through this government’s highly damaging agenda for the civil service and that only PCS stands in their way.

Although PCS are committed to finding a negotiated settlement HMRC want a compliant workforce that is hoodwinked by the “Building our Future” process and bullied by the current PMR process in to thinking their way.

Building the membership and signing people up to Direct Debit should now be a priority so that we can send a clear message to management that we will not be bullied this way and we will stand up, face and fight against this type of intimidation by what is becoming an increasingly brutal employer.

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