Unions vote to accept HMRC's freeze-busting pay deal

Overwhelming backing for pay offer means all civil servants below SCS will get a pay rise
HMRC staff will get their backdate pay rise this month. Photo: www.dpp-businesstax.com//Flickr/CC by 2.0

Union members at HM Revenue and Customs have voted to accept a pay deal that will see wages rise for most staff at the department for the next three years.

Ballots held by PCS and ARC, the FDA’s HMRC division, both tipped overwhelmingly in favour of the deal, which will affect some 60,000 staff. Average pay across grades AA to G6 will go up by 3% this year, 5% in 2021-22 and 5% in 2022-23.

Nearly 28,000 members of PCS – the civil service’s biggest trade union – turned out to vote on the offer, 82% of those eligible to do so. Four in five of those who voted backed the deal.

“This is a tremendous result; and with such a fantastic turnout, it constitutes the largest membership engagement in a group ballot in the Union’s history, leaving absolutely no doubt about our members’ views,” PCS Revenue and Customs Group president Lorna Merry said.

ARC said members had voted “overwhelmingly” to accept the deal. FDA general secretary Dave Penman said members had voted to accept a “landmark pay offer” that had “only happened through the hard work, ambition and talent of the negotiating teams on both sides”.

Both unions had recommended that their members accept the pay offer, which they had negotiated with HMRC over several months.

The deal, which has been nearly a year and a half in the making, comes alongside a major overhaul of employment terms at HMRC. The changes, which include standardised contracts and a change in standard working patterns, are designed to make working practices fairer – although the department has admitted some staff will be negatively affected by the changes. 

Combined with the pay deal, the package is intended to address what HMRC permanent secretary Jim Harra has called a “crisis” of pay and working conditions. In October 2019, Harra told MPs staff were “very, very dissatisfied” with their pay and that there was “inherent unfairness” in working conditions, including some staff being paid more than others for the same job.

Harra said today that he was “delighted” with the result. “This is an important step towards creating a modern, trusted tax department and providing a great place to work, and I’d like to thank colleagues for their participation and the spirited debates held in the last few weeks. We will now work to implement the deal,” he said.

Merry at PCS said the ballot turnout had “reminded us, if we needed reminding, that real collective bargaining with recognised trade unions, reaching an agreement, and then the members of those unions making their voice heard is the best way of keeping the workforce fully engaged in achieving change”.

The ballot result means HMRC officials will receive the 3% pay rise for this year in their March pay packets, backdated to June 2020. The 5% bump for 2021-22 will come into effect this June.

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