Senior members of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) struck on Valentine’s Day over new terms and conditions imposed on them. New performance management rules demand fixed quotas: 10 per cent of all staff must be rated as underperforming regardless of performance. Anyone recruited or newly promoted will work longer hours and have less leave.
The 2,500 tax officials, members of the FDA (formerly known as the First Division Association), voted to strike because of the imposition of quotas, an unfair, unwieldy system, and HMRC’s refusal to go with the union to ACAS. According to the union’s general secretary, Dave Penman, union members fear those marked as underperforming could later lose their jobs.
HMRC introduced these changes in April 2013 as part of the Civil Service Reform plan promoted by Cabinet Office Minster Francis Maude as the future for central government services. HMRC staff see the quotas as arbitrary; they have found the new approach to performance management dogmatic, bureaucratic and time consuming. There is no longer an independent appeal process for staff marked down or who feel they have been treated unfairly.
Unsurprisingly people in HMRC are demotivated. They contrast the idea that one in ten of them are underperforming with the continually improving performance of the organisation reported to Parliament. Gareth Hills, president of FDA’s HMRC section, said, “Last year HMRC's compliance interventions delivered an extra £20.7 billion into the coffers of the Exchequer. That’s enough to fund the cost of primary healthcare for the whole of the UK.” ■