Cleaners and caterers on indefinite strike at a central London government office are ploughing ahead with an indefinite strike over low pay and outsourcing.
The members of the PCS union at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) entered the third week of their strike on Monday of this week.
Strikers say they will keep going until they get what they want.
They’re demanding that outsourcers ISS and Aramark pay them the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour, and give them improved holiday and sick pay.
Ultimately they want to be brought back in house.
One striker, Joshua, told Socialist Worker, “We are still positive—we’re out indefinitely until they settle our demands.”
Strikers say ISS and Aramark haven’t approached them for new talks since the action began earlier this month. But they’ve refused to be worn down. “We’ll carry on,” said striker Merline. “We trust. We knew it would take time.
“At the moment I don’t think anyone is saying they can’t be bothered or they don’t want to carry on. We’re still gathering together strong.”
And another striker, Rita, said, “Everybody is happy, and fighting. We’ll keep going because we are right.”
The strike is also growing and strengthening the PCS at Beis.
Many of the workers are using their time on strike to take a PCS reps training course.
PCS officials said the course was tailored to help them organise among the mainly migrant workforce, with translators for those who need them.
The cleaners and caterers were also joined by porters, security and post room staff for five days last week.
Those workers had only joined the fight recently.
But the cleaners and caterers said their arrival on the picket line boosted them.
And they felt the experience had given porters and security staff more confidence to come out again.
“It felt better because the crowd was bigger,” said Merline. “I think they’ll be up for coming again.”
Strikers say they’ve had lots of support from other branches in the PCS, and have been invited to speak at union meetings as far away as Leeds.
They also say they’ve had lots of support on the picket lines, including from non-outsourced workers at Beis.
Rita said, “Our customers, when they come past on their way into work, they all say they support us. That makes us feel good.”
Workers hope their fight can give confidence to other workers fighting low pay and privatisation. But they’ll need support to keep going and win.
“We know at the end that we won’t win without sacrifice,” said Joshua.
“We’re doing this to achieve something not only for ourselves but for all other people. If we make this possible it will be good for everybody.
“If we win it will stand as an example for others to follow suit. When we stand together and do things together, it goes far.
“With unity and solidarity we can do anything.”