Anger over job losses following HM Revenue & Customs’ decision not to renew its tax-credits contract with US firm Concentrix is unjustified in light of the problems with the service, the agency has said.
Both the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and MP Gavin Robinson have criticised HMRC for its handling of the case, which has left 150 temporary staff at Concentrix’s Belfast offices due to finish work today. It has also plunged the future of a greater number of permanent staff connected with the contract into doubt.
HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson announced earlier this month that the Concentrix contract, worth between £55m and £75m, would not be renewed in May next year because of wrongly-stopped tax credit payments thought to have affected hundreds of claimants.
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But PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the issues that had arisen were a direct result of the reward model adopted by the agency.
“This goes to the heart of the problem with privatisation and outsourcing, with HMRC setting payment-by-results targets for companies like Concentrix then seeking to wash its hands of responsibility,” he said.
“The private firms then feel they have been given the green light to mistreat staff and keep them dangling on short term contracts. This kind of work should be done in-house, with any existing employees' jobs protected."
Robinson, who represents the East Belfast constituency, told the BBC: "Concentrix have only ever done what they have been asked to do and yet HMRC have pinned all the blame on them."
CSW asked HMRC to comment on the criticisms and a spokeswoman responded that it was “vital” that tax credit customers had a high level of service.
“That’s why we have decided not to extend our contract with Concentrix and HMRC is redeploying 150 staff so that customers can get through to advisers and resolve any issues about their claim,” she said.
A Concentrix spokesman said the 150 temporary staff due to finish work today had been recruited on a short-term basis “as per the volume forecasts agreed with HMRC ahead of time”.
He added: “These temporary roles were expected to ramp down as per plan at the end of August and we have in fact extended beyond this.”
CSW understands that around 500 staff at Concentrix were working on the HMRC contract, including the 150 whose contracts end today.
The spokesman was unable to give a precise number of permanent staff working on the tax credits contract, but suggested the number was higher than 150.
“We are doing everything possible to minimise any impact,” he said. “We are engaged with HMRC to fully understand the implications of this announcement and in the meantime we are exploring all options for our staff within Concentrix. Concentrix remains committed to Belfast as a base for our European operations."