A strike by PCS members will see picket lines mounted at tax offices as tens of thousands of taxpayers seek advice about filing their self assessment returns tomorrow.
The one-day walkout is in opposition to year-long call handling trials using two private sector companies, Sitel and Teleperformance, due to start next month in two enquiry centres in Cumbria and Scotland.
Up to 20,000 members of the union who work in HM Revenue and Customs call centres and face to face enquiry offices across the UK are expected to take part, the union says.
While people will still be able to file returns online, enquiry lines will be closed or seriously delayed for the tens of thousands of people who will use the service on the day to get help and advice.
The union believes the trials are unnecessary as the skills and expertise already exists in the department, and set a dangerous precedent of allowing the private sector in. One of companies involved has advertised posts for the trial as 'permanent' and at a rate of pay several thousand pounds less a year than the civil servants doing the same work are paid.
If HMRC wants to trial new ways of working, the union says HMRC should invest in its own staff, instead of pressing ahead with plans to cut another 10,000 jobs by 2015 - on top of the 30,000 that have gone from the department since 2005. HMRC last week announced plans to close more advice offices.
This would mean the government could make a serious attempt at tackling the tens of billions of pounds in tax that goes uncollected every year from a minority of very wealthy individuals and organisations that avoid or evade paying their dues.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Our members in tax offices want to do a good job and provide the best possible advice and help to taxpayers, but there are fewer of them working in fewer offices as a result of misguided and damaging cuts.
"Instead of making even more cuts and throwing public money at private companies, ministers should be investing in their staff and tackling the billions in tax avoided and evaded by the super-rich."
Reprinted from the PCS website. View original article here: