TAX office staff across Wearside went on strike today in protest against cuts they claim will undermine the fight against tax dodgers.
Up to 12,000 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) staff in the North East and Cumbria were due to walk out over cutbacks which the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) says will leave the department unable to collect avoided or evaded tax.
Offices in Sunderland city centre and at Hylton riverside, Washington and Peterlee were hit.
Gary Clark, spokesman for Washington PCS, said: “We can’t roll over and sleepwalk through redundancies. HMRC is facing huge cuts to jobs and there is also the threat of privatisation.
“The Government is refusing to give us guarantees over no compulsory redundancies and we have two offices closing.”
Leslie Bean, spokeswoman for PCS Peterlee, added: “We are doing this with the intention of making the Government listen to us and get back round the table.
“We have real fears. There are about 750 people that work here and none of us know what’s happening or whether we will even have jobs.
“We’re living in limbo.”
The industrial action in all HMRC offices in the UK is over plans to axe a further 10,000 jobs, on top of 30,000 that have gone since the department was formed in 2005.
The union says an estimated £120billion is lost every year because of tax evasion and avoidance and because the department does not have sufficient resources to collect what is owed.
The strike is also in opposition to what the PCS describes as “creeping privatisation in HMRC”, with the department currently spending £4million on a year-long trial using two private companies to handle tax credit inquiries.