Labour MSP Neil Findlay joined PCS reps and members (left) during Monday morning’s 30 minute walkout at the HMRC office in Bathgate, West Lothian
More than 20,000 tax officers are taking part in a day of lightning walkouts against plans to bring in private companies to do their work.
PCS members who work in call centres and enquiry offices across the UK are joining a series of short strikes.
Louise Hill, PCS Secretary at the HMRC in Bathgate, West Lothian told UnionNews: “We could be fighting for our jobs.
“It’s cheaper to bring the private company in. They’re getting paid a lot less for doing the same job. We think our jobs are in jeopardy.”
Watch our video report of this morning’s action, in sub-zero temperatures, at the HMRC office in Bathgate, West Lothian:
The action is in opposition to the appointment of two private companies, Sitel and Teleperformance, to run call handling trials in HMRC tax credit contact centres in Lillyhall in Cumbria as well as the Bathgate office.
The year-long trials are due to start in early February and the union is warning they risk paving the way for privatisation in the department, and come at a time when tens of thousands of civil service jobs are being cut.
Joining staff and PCS reps at the Bathgate action, local Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “It’s clearly a drive that the Coalition government have as part of their austerity measures that they want to cut wages and conditions, privatise, outsource.
“The fact that so many staff members are willing to take this action is an indication of the concerns they have over the future of their jobs.”
PCS is calling for HMRC to invest in its own staff and in training, instead of handing public money to private companies, if the department believes there are issues to address in its call centres.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “When jobs in HMRC and the civil service are being cut in their tens of thousands, it is entirely wrong to start handing contracts to private companies.
“Instead of privatising ever more of our public services, the government should be investing in its own staff to ensure they are equipped and trained to provide the essential services they are proud to deliver.”
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Staff will walk out again at 4.30pm for 30 minutes. Anyone on a shift that finishes after 7pm will leave work 30 minutes early.
Further action is planned for 31 January – the deadline for self-assessment returns and a key date in HMRC’s diary.
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