A major battle over low pay and outsourcing at a central London government office was set to escalate next week—as more workers join the fight.
Porters and reception and security staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are set to strike for five weeks from next Monday. They will join cleaners and caterers who have been on indefinite strike since mid-July.
One catering worker already on strike, Ana, told Socialist Worker, “It’s going to be massive.
“Now everybody’s coming out—reception, porters, security, cleaners. We’re all together in this fight.”
The workers—members of the PCS union—want bosses at outsourcers ISS and Aramark to pay them the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour. They also want 28 days holiday, better sick pay—and ultimately to be brought back in house.
They have led the charge in a fight against low pay and outsourcing across the civil service.
But so far bosses haven’t agreed to new negotiations—and have brought in cleaners from other workplaces to break the strike.
Now the strikers hope that new workers joining the fight will be enough to force ISS and Aramark to give in.
One cleaner, Roman, said, “They’re bringing in cleaners from other buildings who are doing overtime.
“But some of them are doing so much they’re starting to get tired with the whole thing. And the building isn’t getting looked after as properly as it normally would.”
He added, “The fact that different people are coming out on strike shortly means that more and more people are getting involved.
It’s going to be their first strike so we’re going to welcome them and support them.”
And Ana said, “When the managers come and there’s no one to open the building or be on reception, it’s going to be amazing.” It’s a big step forward in a fight that could spread to other government departments—and beyond.
Cleaners at HMRC tax offices, also employed by ISS, have struck to demand a living wage.
And the strikers know that if they win their battle, they could be an example for low-paid, outsourced workers everywhere.
It should become a high-profile dispute—and activists in the PCS and other unions should raise solidarity and invite strikers to speak at their meetings.
“It’s not just London government buildings,” said Roman “It’s in hospitals, and all sorts of workplaces across the country.” Ana said, “At the end of the day we are the company. We’re helping to run the country as well. If you don’t have catering here, you have Pret a Manger, or Starbucks.
“All of those places have people working in them. You come here because we’re on a picket line. But when you go to the pub, you hear people complain about the same problems.
“So it’s not just about us, it’s about all the workers, for the same rights.”
Send messages of solidarity and invite strikers to speak at your meetings. Email [email protected] Visit the picket lines from Monday 2 September, 1 Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1H 0ET