Tax staff and firefighters protest

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WORKERS at four Sunderland tax offices start a week of industrial action on Monday in a dispute over job losses, office closures and performance monitoring – and firefighters are striking on Saturday.

Members of Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) who work on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) sites in Waterside House and Gilbridge House in the city, and Weardale House and Waterdale Park in Washington will take part.

In addition, staff at the HMRC contact centre in Emerald Court, Bracken Hill Business Park, in Peterlee, will also be part of the action and have a picket line, during the rolling programme.

The protest comes on the back of the planned closures at the end of this month, 281 public enquiry centres across the UK, which, the PCS says will make it harder for the public to organise their tax affairs.

PCS regional secretary Simon Elliott said members were angered by a new performance management system, reductions in staff and the office closures.

“The staff nationally have just been pushed over the edge really because of a number of issues,” he told the Echo. “These include the performance management system, which means that 10 per cent of people automatically fall into a range which is classed as under performing, which is affecting their pay. That has really angered lots of staff all over the country.

“They are relentlessly closing offices and reducing staff numbers. All these issues added together have along side the national issues, like the pay freeze just pushed them over the edge.

“What they want now is some serious negotiations around these issues – serious and genuine negotiation – with a view to make an agreement around the performance management system, the job losses and office closures – because at the moment these negotiations just don’t take place.”

Meanwhile, members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will walk out from 10am to 5pm tomorrow, as part of the ongoing dispute between the FBU and the Government over changes to pensions.