Union warning as HMRC starts talks on fate of 200 staff

Public and Commercial Services union makes "strong representations" to tax authority about "timescale and process" of 90-day talks, which department says may result in compulsory redundancies

By matt.foster

10 Aug 2015

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has voiced concern over the fate of around 200 HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) staff, as talks on their future get under way today. 

The tax authority will today open a formal consultation with trade unions on the possible redeployment of around 200 staff - mainly at administrative level - who are currently without permanent roles. HMRC's chief people officer William Hague last week said that the process could "regrettably" lead to compulsory redundancy for some officials.

"We’ve always been clear that we might have to take up this option for people who haven’t taken up a voluntary redundancy and who we’ve been unable to redeploy," Hague said in a message to staff seen by Civil Service World.

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The PCS union - which will have its first formal meeting with HMRC over the plans today - has warned that the redeployment prospects for those affected may now be more limited in light of chancellor George Osborne's call for a further squeeze on departmental budgets.

"We’re very concerned that HMRC hasn’t met its obligations under the civil service-wide agreement on the timescale and process for consultation, that was set up to try to avoid redundancies," a PCS spokesperson said. They added: "In many cases there have been long delays without any engagement since voluntary redundancies were first offered, and we now have a new government committed to further civil service job cuts.

"This means staff who turned down a package a year ago hoping to stay in the civil service could find it much harder to find a new role. And the fact this will now happen against the backdrop of the spending review, with departments asked to draw up plans for cuts of up to 40%, will only exacerbate this.

"We have made strong representations to the department on these points and have sought assurances it is entering into meaningful consultation in good faith."

HMRC has stressed that no final decision has yet been made on the future of the staff, and promised that the "rigorous" 90-day consultation opening today will aim to "avoid the need for compulsory redundancies" wherever possible.

The tax authority - which is the third-largest of the government departments - has reduced the size of its workforce by 20% since the start of the last parliament, according to figures analysed by the National Audit Office spending watchdog.

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