PCS members at beleaguered contractor Interserve, working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have taken strike action following the company’s refusal to formally recognise our union, or compensate for making staff wait six weeks for a month's wages.
The first period of strike action took place on 1 and 2 May and was 100% supported by members who are angry at Interserve for making workers redundant, imposing detrimental changes and refusing to negotiate with PCS reps. Further action was taken on 21st and 22nd May. The cleaners were paid overdue wages on an uplift to the London Living Wage (LLW) from 2017/2018 and holiday pay which they were due. They are still not on the 2018/2019 LLW of £10.55 per hour.
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Interserve workers in the FCO have not been paid since 28th April. They are due to be paid on 11th June, but this will only be for the salary in May. Interserve are withholding 11 days of pay. The wages are converting to hourly pay instead of a regular monthly salary, this will mean that each month will vary depending on the working days in each month. Interserve said "it will only be a day to three day's difference per month". Given that many of the workers are on a low salary, this blasé attitude is unacceptable. The solution from Interserve is to offer the staff an advance 'bridging loan' for the hours they have already worked, which they would then need to pay back to Interserve from their wages.
On 4th June Interserve said that they would not agree to formal trade union recognition as they felt hurt by criticism they had received in the media and parliament. The hurt to PCS members having to suffer through this is far worse than their feelings. They need to respect workers' right and pay up the wages they have already worked for.
Our members working for Interserve provide services including facilities management, maintenance, porterage and cleaning in a number of government departments. There has been mounting concern for the finances of the company since last year. However the government accepted a bid by Interserve to run FCO services in August 2018.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: This is a powerful message that our members are sending. They will not stand by while a failing company like Interserve attacks their terms and conditions and at the same time, refuses to negotiate with the union. Staff have told us that changes to their pay dates have left them out of pocket and struggling to make ends meet.
The whole debacle shows that Interserve should never have been awarded the contract at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Ministers cannot escape their responsibility and they should have learned from the disaster at Carillion that contracting out doesn’t make sense financially. All these jobs at the FCO and elsewhere must be safeguarded and brought back in-house as soon as possible.
PCS has twice asked Jeremy Hunt to intervene. In parliament he said he would take personal responsibility for the payment blunders, but he is nowhere to be seen. Both the FCO Permanent Under Secretary and the Foreign Secretary need to take action to stop staff on their premises being treated this way.!
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Public & Commercial Services Union, Greater London, United Kingdom