HMRC staff launch lighting strikes

Privatisation fears have sparked lighting HMRC strikes today - and more action is planned for 31 January, the deadline for Britain's 7m self-employed to file their online tax returns.

Around 20,000 HMRC staff are walking out on their jobs for 30 minutes from 10am and again at 4.30pm this afternoon, as anger builds about HMRC job outsourcing and accusations of creeping privatisation increase.

Creeping privatisation?

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) claims HMRC staff are being pitted against the hiring of two private firms, Sitel and Teleperformance, in call handling trial runs at HMRC tax credit contact centres. "If HMRC believes there are issues to address in its call centres," said the PCS in a press statement, "it should invest in its own staff and in training, instead of handing public money to private companies."

When jobs in HMRC and the civil service are being cut in their tens of thousands, it's wrong to start handing contracts to private companies, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka added. "Instead of privatising ever more of our public services, the government should be investing in its own staff to ensure they are equipped and trained to provide the essential services they are proud to deliver."

Not activating

Essential services, we presume, include the efficient processing of online activation codes. These are needed for the self-employed to pay their tax returns online and are promised, on request from HMRC, within seven working days.

This self-employed person applied for their activation code on 27 December and is still waiting for it to turn up, despite nagging HMRC several times and enduring its labyrinthine call centre experience several times.

If you are also having communication problems over your up-coming tax return (deadline 31 January) with HMRC, please let us know.
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