Northern Ireland

Tax workers strike over HMRC job cuts

More than 1,500 tax workers in Northern Ireland are to strike on Thursday in a dispute over job cuts.

The walkout forms part of a week of rolling strikes throughout the UK affecting HM Revenue and Customs.

The Public and Commercial Services union said years of successive job cuts had left the organisation unable to cope.

The union said there were also plans to close a number of offices, including some in Northern Ireland.

There is currently an ongoing consultation about the closure of the Newry office and both Foyle House in Derry and Abbey House in Enniskillen are partially closed.

A number of enquiry centres will also close on 30 June.

The union said HMRC was continuing to close more of its offices - including all 281 walk-in tax enquiry centres, with a further 23 large sites across the UK facing imminent closure - and is planning to privatise more of its debt collection and post handling.

Industrial action

It also said the HMRC was making more than 2,000 fixed-term workers compulsory redundant despite its own business planning revealing a huge staffing shortfall.

The union claimed the cuts have led to delays on telephone lines and huge backlogs of post.

It said private debt collectors have also had to be brought in to chase up tax credits overpayments.

The union said it was also considering other shorter duration walkouts and "good work strikes" to highlight the gaps in services, as well as other forms of industrial action.

The action comes as the union is holding a national consultative ballot of all its quarter of a million civil and public service members with a view to taking part in joint union industrial action over pay, expected to start in July.

Barney Lawn, from the Public and Commercial Services union, said: "Members are extremely angry that staffing numbers in HMRC have fallen from 104,000 in 2005 to a projected 60,000 next year.

"The latest plans to sack another 22,000 on top of this will lead to the kind of backlogs we've seen in other parts of the civil service, such as the delays in the processing of passports, leading to an unacceptable level of customer service and further hardship for our undervalued, overworked and underpaid members."

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