The RCTU noted the recent announcement by Chief People Officer of some 150 Compulsory Redundancy notices. This is extremely worrying especially as the terms for this form of exit are less beneficial to staff than a Voluntary exit. This comes from changes made several years ago to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) – of which more in a separate article. Effectively these changes were imposed without fully engaged negotiations with the most populous Civil Service Trade Union as their dogmatic stance did not allow them to “concede to any changes”. This was not an exercise in responsibility to their members.
These are merely the first of many possible in the next few years. Let us be clear: the huge number of closures in the next 5 years is going to happen, ministers have signed this off and compulsory redundancies in every location are effectively approved. A responsible Trade Union would be in there now trying to mitigate, aware that reversal of most – not all - of the BoF is impossible but with an ongoing belief that engagement must provide improvements.
Sadly we noted also that colleagues in Wick have been “invited to apply for Voluntary Exits”. Some invitation! Several senior members of the RCTU were closely involved in obtaining work for Wick and making representations that work existed in the Wick area. This goes to the very hub of the issues as regards BoF – work is either location specific or non location specific. This has prevented in the past the department from closing the majority of the estate although they have been on this path since the merger of the departments. It was stymied by careful actions of some of us in 2009 but now the plans have been dusted off. The official view of HMRC is:
“In order to become as effective and efficient as we can be in serving customers and maximising revenues, we need to bring our people closer together, so that they can collaborate in more joined-up ways for our customers, across many different lines of business. We want to ensure that our people have more face-to-face interaction with other colleagues, rather than working in isolated pockets, and that they have better opportunities for training, development and promotion. Moving this work will also ensure that we continue to enforce the rules throughout the UK in the most effective way.”
As RCTU members are nothing if not logical we can all see the conflict and dichotomy between digital technology, the need to be all located together as per the above and the future of compliance by interviewing non compliant taxpayers via video link! The case for the continued work on a location specific basis across all of the UK exists despite and in spite of HMRC’s desire for it to be otherwise and “new ways of working”. (We have had many comments from members and colleagues about every new wizard idea and the complete drive to make everything non location specific – or as one officer called it – “the Mars option” – that is – can be done anywhere but here where it is actually required to be done …)
The fact is the estate changes mean unless you live in the regional centre urban location the risk has been assessed low for location specific activity. We all know this is not entirely correct. There remain a vast number of questions that the employer needs to answer so staff and the work they undertake can be protected. There is also a very real question mark over the viability of all the regional centres as they have been announced. The numbers of staff just do not add up with the scant information on the proposed “efficiencies” from the Spending Review / Departmental Plan.
All HMRC staff, no matter where they are, need answers to vital questions and they will require proactive Trade Union involvement to solve, ameliorate or change the future prospects of staff and HMRC.
And if you think you can work away from a regional centre we leave you with this …
“As we explained in the November announcements about our future location strategy, it’s become clear that home-working doesn’t fit with the long-term plans of the department..”