LOCOG have received a lot of praise for the way in which the Olympics were organised. One thing that isn’t widely known is that civil servants from HMRC and other Government Departments have been on secondment to LOCOG for the last few months to assist them with their work. These Government Departments agreed that the secondees would remain employees of their respective Departments whilst on secondment and they not LOCOG would be responsible for paying them. Read More
Hi! After a brief break last week here’s another ‘stuff to do this Saturday’ post.
Olympic Torch Protest Relay
3pm, Wanstead Flats or from 2pm on the relay route.
Ahead of next week’s main event the Counter Olympics Network are welcoming the Vancouver Poverty Olympics torch to London. Oh yes, this is an historic event which you won’t want to miss,
From the Counter Olympics Network’s press release:
The iconic Vancouver Poverty Olympics Torch will make an historic appearance in London. The East London Poverty Torch Relay will herald the ‘Whose Games? Whose City?’ Demonstration against the Corporate Olympics to be held on July 28th. Counter Olympics spokesperson, Julian Cheyne, said:
‘The Poverty Torch Relay highlights long-standing Olympic issues of eviction, land seizure and the exclusion of the poor. London 2012 is no different. The Olympics epitomises corporate power and growing social inequality.’
On Saturday 21st July, the Torch will go from ‘Lympic Stratford and end at bulldozed Wanstead Flats, where there will be an open day arranged by the Met to look at the police facility from 11am to 3pm. Our runners will be received by members of the Save Wanstead Flats campaign at the end of the open day event.
Either head for the end of the relay at Wanstead Flats or pop by the route to show some support.
There are more details and background information on the Counter Olympics network site: Press Release: Historic Olympic Protest Torch Relay in East London
Ruck Against Workfare
7pm – late, The Grosvenor, 17 Sidney Road, Stockwell, London, SW9 0TP
A night of punk and rock to raise funds for those fighting against Workfare. Details are sparse but The Grosvenor’s a cracking little venue with a history of fundraisers for this sort of thing. It should be a good night if political punk and rock are your thing. There is likely to be a fair bit of swearing.
Contempt (punk since 84)
Dave Plummer opened the meeting by explaining that members had individually began to ask a variety of questions relating to travel time etc during the Olympic period and therefore it was felt that a meeting was necessary to bring all the issues together.
Dave also outlined our branches policy of ‘no detriment to members’ http://pcseuston.org.uk/the-2012-olympics-a-statement-to-members/
Tim Armit from Security and Information Directorate (S&ID) began by giving a presentation on the changes that staff will need to make to at least half the journeys made during the 50 days of the games period from 21 July until 9 September. Tim explained that three HMRC offices in Central London were asked to test alternative work and travel arrangements for one week and there was a 65% success rate in their ability to alter their travel route. Tim said that the alternatives ranged from travelling by bike, walking from Liverpool Street to alternating their arrival and departure time.
A PCS rep from 100 Parliament Street asked if the data collected from the exercise could be shared with his union branch and Tim agreed to investigate.
It was also proposed that Euston Tower should have our own test as we have many members who live in East London and it will prove difficult avoiding the travel hotspots. Tim agreed to consult with S&ID.
Fiona Staff from the PCS Group Executive Committee was the second speaker and she explained that she is now one of the lead negotiators on the Olympics. Fiona gave an overview of the on-going negotiations and said that she is in contact with the PCS Cabinet Office negotiators for guidance on the issue. Fiona stated that the main area of contention is the lack of flexi credits for disrupted journeys. As this affected other civil service departments as well as HMRC PCS cabinet office officials should take a leading role on the issue.
The meeting then opened to questions and contributions from the floor. The main concerns centred on members with dependents, disabled members and if staff will have the ability to carry out visiting duties while the games are on.
Another issue that cropped up was the issue of building security and whether we could be confident that the building staff would be able to get to the building in sufficient numbers to maintain health and safety and security.
Tim and Fiona thanked the meeting for raising their concerns and they agreed to liaise with our union branch in due course.
We closed the meeting by saying that this was the first of a series of meetings on the Olympics and we will update members as soon as information is received.
A general point to make, although an obvious one, is that this is a unique situation we find ourselves in and we want to work closely with HMRC management to make the changes as smoothly as humanly possible. We therefore strongly recommend that members complete their POPPs as, although voluntary, they will form the basis of future negotiations.
We are now investigating have a meeting specifically for disabled members and the Olympics.
Last but certainly not least, we’d like to thank Tim and Fiona for attending the meeting and also Gail Filby, Neil Furey, and Ed Lewis for allowing the time off for members in their work streams/directorates to attend.
For video of the meeting and more information please visit our dedicated Olympics page.
HMRC Management in Euston Tower have issued an interim statement to staff, ‘The 2012 Olympics and how it affects us’, explaining some of the disruption the Olympics will cause, particularly regarding travel delays, and some suggested options to change travel behaviour. The suggested options include:
- Working from home
- More extensive use of [product placement removed] and video conferencing
Both of these are perfectly reasonable suggestions. The former could actually benefit members and the latter might help promote further use of teleconferencing & video-conferencing, helpful to both to HMRC’s and PCS’s commitment to the environment and to reduce costs.
However, the following suggestions are also included:
- Consideration for taking annual leave/flexi over this period
- Introduction of hot desk arrangements to buildings local to your home
- Rescheduling of meetings and training to take place outside London
- Reviewing your usual route to work; it might be heavily affected during the Games
- Altering the times you travel to avoid peak times
- Working compressed working weeks
- A ban on London based training courses
- Considering alternative ways of getting into work e.g. walking part of the way/[product placement removed] bike hire.
Every one of these could potentially be to the detriment of members in a number of ways, including:
- time lost,
- changing leave plans,
- additional travel to meetings and training courses,
- additional travel expense,
- the disruption that hot desking inevitably brings to offices.
Of course, if members are happy to change their leave and/or working hours, amend their travel arrangements and a majority of staff members in local offices agree to hot desking they should be allowed to pursue these avenues.
Nevertheless we do not believe any member should feel pressured in to making any changes to their current arrangements and any financial loss or loss of time caused by travel disruption due to the Olympic Games should be reimbursed in full by HMRC. HMRC can then recoup the loss from the relevant Olympic authorities and agencies.
It is absolutely right that members are given time off in cases of severe weather and similar circumstances, circumstances which are beyond any authorities control. We believe that it is only appropriate that the same applies to the Olympics. There are costs to hosting the Olympics, costs which go beyond building the stadia and infrastructure, costs which include time and money lost to travel disruption.
We don’t believe those costs should be borne by PCS members and call on HMRC to ensure that no member is forced to suffer any financial, time or other detriment as a result of the Olympics.
In addition to the above branch statement it is worth bearing in mind that:
- Much of the travel disruption around Euston Tower will be the result of Olympics officials choosing accommodation in west London rather than in the vicinity of the main East London Olympic sites,
- Many small businesses have been forced to close and many people have lost their homes as a result of Olympics building work in east London. Communities have been lost,
- The remaining local businesses will be shut out of the Olympics in favour of the sponsors, such as McDonald’s, who take money out of the local community. Spectators aren’t even allowed to wear clothing which promotes any of the sponsors’ competitors.
- There are plans to severely restrict the right to protest during the Olympic games. The world could be allowed to see only a sanitised, Government approved vision of Britain. Any criticism of the Government or the Olympics could be crushed.
The sporting element of the Olympics has the potential to be a fantastic event. It is unfortunate that it has become dominated by commercial interests which counter so much of what the Olympics should stand for.
For more information about the 2012 Olympics visit:
If you can, please come along to the Countering the Olympics Public Meeting on 28th January.