Len Shelley is assistant branch secretary of the PCS union at the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) headquarters in Euston Tower, central London.
He was on a 20-strong picket line outside the office on Monday morning. Civil service workers are striking against job cuts in an already understaffed department.
“If we had more staff here, we’d be able to close the tax gap—and hold the rich to account,” he told Socialist Worker.
Privatisation was another issue, he added. “We have workers employed by HMRC and workers employed by private companies who are paid less for doing the same job.”
Dave Plummer is the PCS branch organiser at Euston Tower. “It’s crazy to get rid of 10,000 HMRC workers when tax evasion and avoidance stands at £120 billion,” he said.
“The Tories say Jimmy Carr is ‘morally wrong’ to avoid taxes, but David Cameron is doing nothing to close the tax loopholes.
“He’s attacking benefits instead. Yet in 2010 there was £16 billion in benefits unclaimed, but only £5 billion claimed in fraud or error.”
There was widespread support for more strikes this autumn around the time of the 20 October anti-austerity demo called by the TUC.
“It’s got to be everybody out together,” said Andi Bridges, another worker on strike. “We need to head for a general strike. If workers don’t stand up, who else is going to?”
Dave Plummer said, “We can’t wait another month after that demo for a strike—the mood will dissipate. It needs to be bash, bash, bash—we need to strike the very next week.”
The picket line was boosted by solidarity delegations from civil service workers in the Home Office and Unison members from Camden council.
There were also visitors from international struggles including a Greek journalist from the occupied newspaper Eleftherotypia and striking Spanish miner Segundo Menendez Collar.
“Our struggle is about fighting for dignity for working class people—and that includes the right to work,” said Segundo. “We see that what’s happening to us is the result of an international crisis. The resistance must be on an international scale too.”
East Kilbride houses the two main tax centres for Scotland. Over 2,500 civil service workers there took part in the strike against job losses and attacks on conditions. The strike was solid at both sites.
James Logan on the picket line linked today’s action to the wider struggle against cuts and austerity. “It’s a disgrace that workers are being forced to pay for the bankers’ gambling debts,” he told Socialist Worker.
Alex Wilson is branch secretary of the Centre 1 office. He highlighted the irony of bosses dodging taxes while tax workers suffered jobs losses.
“Tax workers pay the price while Cameron highlights Jimmy Carr and ignores the big Tory Party donors,” he said. “I wonder who the real comedian is here.”