Tax officials were yesterday on strike over a plan to hand sensitive data over to private companies and put jobs at risk. The walkout between 12pm and 3pm, involved 20,000 of PCS’s 56,000 members in HM Revenue and Customs and is in opposition to a plan …

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Tax officials were yesterday on strike over a plan to hand sensitive data over to private companies and put jobs at risk.

The walkout between 12pm and 3pm, involved 20,000 of PCS’s 56,000 members in HM Revenue and Customs and is in opposition to a planned year-long trial using private staff in two contact centres in Bathgate, in Scotland, and Lillyhall, Cumbria.

The private staff will handle enquiries about tax credits and will have access to sensitive data about people entitled to claim them.

A recent plan to offshore a Department for Work and Pensions contract involving the records of millions of taxpayers was halted after the union raised serious concerns about data security.

HMRC has faced 30,000 job cuts since its formation in 2005 and this government plans to cut a further 10,000 posts in the next few years.

The union says that instead of cutting more jobs at a time of consistently high unemployment, and wasting public money on a private sector trial, the department should use existing staff to help out at peak times in the call centres.

In a separate dispute all the union’s members in HMRC’s offices across the UK will walk out between 12pm and 2pm on the same day in opposition to a punitive new sick absence system, which threatens staff with disciplinary action instead of supporting them back to work.

The latest action over the new ‘attendance management’ policy follows a series of short walkouts over two days in June, which closed some tax enquiry centres and forced HMRC to put a recorded message on its call centre lines.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members have very serious concerns about this creeping privatisation into HM Revenue and Customs and, as well as the threat to their jobs, they do not think such sensitive data should be handed over to private firms.

“This is also happening at a time when senior managers are trying to bring in an unnecessarily punitive and counter-productive sick policy that seeks to penalise people for being ill, rather than support them.”


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