HM Revenue and Customs staff have voted to strike over the tax agency’s handling of the closure of a west London branch office.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services union at International House in Ealing will stage two half-day strikes later this month in a programme that will escalate to a three-day walkout next month, following a ballot that ended earlier this week.
The office is due to shut by 2020-21 as part of the department's programme of creating regional hubs, but the union said many of the 200-plus staff at the town centre office would not be able to relocate, meaning that the move would lead to “job losses and poorer service”.
In answer to a written question in parliament from Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq last month, financial secretary to the treasury Mel Stride said the number of International House staff who would be at risk of redundancy as a result of the closure would not be known until around a year before the event.
In December last year Stride told Huq, in answer to another written question, that planning data indicated around 107 full-time equivalent staff from the office House were expected to transfer to a regional centre.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the International House strike vote should be “a huge wake-up call to the government” that the tax office closure programme should be halted.
“HMRC is struggling to recruit and retain staff. With an unnecessary office closure programme and a huge amount of tax uncollected, evaded or avoided, our members demand that their office stays open,” he said.
According to PCS, the Ealing strike will be the first action at HMRC by PCS members for five years, and follows 80% of ballots cast supporting industrial action.
The half-day strikes are scheduled to take place on 20 and 26 March. A full day strike is tabled for 3 April, and the three-day strike to start on 10 April.
An HMRC spokesperson said it was “disappointing” that PCS members at Ealing had voted to strike.
“HMRC is transforming the way it operates into a more highly-skilled operation offering modern, digital services to create a tax authority fit for the future,” they said.
“We want to keep as many people as possible and expect the vast majority of the current workforce will either work in a regional centre or see out their career in an HMRC office.
“While we expect the majority of our people in Ealing will be able to move, everyone will have the opportunity of a 1-2-1 to discuss their personal circumstances and to establish what support they need. For those people who are unable to move, we will always work with them to find alternative solutions including identifying opportunities at our Inland Pre-Clearance site at Hayes and in other government departments such as Border Force and the Department for Work and Pensions.”