PCS to reballot HMRC on strike action after 47% turnout falls short

HMRC will vote to join industrial action in early 2023, union chief Mark Serwotka predicts
Photo: Howard Lake/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The PCS union will reballot HM Revenue and Customs staff on strikes next year after the department's voter turnout in a cross-government ballot fell just shy of the 50% required to take action.

Some 100,000 officials have voted to strike over over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms, PCS announced today – but HMRC was among a number of civil service employers where fewer than 50% of eligible union members voted.

The tax agency's 47% voter turnout fell just 750 ballots short of meeting the participation threshold required to take industrial action under the Trade Union Act.

The vast majority – 85% – of the 13,454 PCS members in HMRC who did vote backed strike action. 

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said he expected HMRC to join departments and agencies that crossed the threshold "very soon".

Addressing members via Facebook Live this afternoon, he said: "We believe that we can win in HMRC, with the full resource focusing on that group. It is very important that we go there first because that will send a signal to government.

"The action will start and HMRC will be joining us very soon in 2023."

PCS is calling for a 10% pay rise for civil servants this year; a living wage of at least £15 an hour; a 2% cut in pension contributions that civil servants have overpaid since 2018; and for proposed cuts redundancy payments to be scrapped.

HMRC staff are unlikely to benefit from any pay rise secured through the threatened industrial action, owing to a bespoke, three-year pay deal agreed by unions in early 2021.

The deal meant that HMRC officials have received higher pay rises than civil servants in most other departments for the last two years. The backdated deal – which included a major overhaul of employment terms – increased average pay for grades AA to G6 by 3% for 2020-21, and by 5% in both 2021-22 and 2022-23.

By contrast, pay was frozen for most civil servants in 2021-22, in a move then-chancellor Rishi Sunak said would "ensure fairness" with people working for businesses, after the coronavirus pandemic had “deepened the disparity between public and private-sector wages”.

This year, average pay rises are capped at 2-3% in most departments.

But while the pay trajctory at HMRC compared favourably to those offered by other civil service employers, it has now fallen behind inflation, which hit 10% last month.

The pay and reform package, which took nearly a year and a half to reach, was intended to address what permanent secretary Jim Harra has called a “crisis” of pay and working conditions. In October 2019, Harra told MPs there was an urgent need to increase pay as staff were “very, very dissatisfied”, and that reform was needed to tackle structural problems.

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