Civil service workers at a west London tax office struck on Wednesday in a fight to save jobs.
Some 200 members of the PCS union took their first half-day of action against the planned closure of their HMRC office in the borough of Ealing. They fear the closure could cause well over 100 job losses.
If the closure goes ahead, it could force workers to commute up to three hours a day or be made redundant. Many strikers say the journey across the city to the proposed new office in Stratford, east London, would be too far and too expensive.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “If the office closes we might have to leave. It’s too far to travel to Stratford. An hour and a half in the morning and an hour and a half in the evening is too much.”
Ealing is one of many HMRC offices that have faced closure as part of bosses’ “Building our Future” plan that was launched in 2015. It aims to close offices across Britain and relocate them to fewer than 20 sites—and has already caused hundreds of job losses.
Speakers at a strike rally told the strikers they could lead the start of the fightback.
Strikers were greeted with cheers from supporters as they walked out of their office on Ealing High Street before marching to the rally.
Striker and branch chair Lydia told the rally, “We’re sending the message that we’re strong. Let’s inspire others with our action.”
And PCS HMRC group chair Martin Kelsey said he hoped there would be a “flood of branches following the lead of what we’re doing”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “We’re going to make sure that everyone knows what you’re doing.” He added that the union’s leadership would back strikers “As long as it takes for you to get a successful resolution.
“If management think this is a one-off—letting off a bit of steam and then it will be back to normal—they should hear us loud and clear today. This strike will carry on as long as you are prepared to support it and we will be with you all the way.”
Workers are set for a further half day strike on Tuesday of next week, a full day strike on 3 April and a three-day strike beginning 10 April.