Socialist Worker

‘We’ll stay out so we can win,’ say PCS union members on indefinite strike

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2672

Strikers protesting in central London last week

Strikers protesting in central London last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Outsourced workers have vowed to keep up their indefinite strike after bosses claimed to give in to one of their central demands.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) apparently promised the striking cleaners and caterers the London Living Wage (LLW) last week.

Workers say they will keep striking until they get a deal.

The PCS union members have been on indefinite strike since mid-July. They’re demanding the LLW of £10.55 an hour from their current employers, outsourcers ISS and Aramark.

They also want improved sick pay and holiday pay, and ultimately to be brought back in house.

Strikers were surprised when PCS general secretary Mark Serwtoka told the TUC union federation congress last week that Beis had emailed him agreeing to £10.55 an hour.

PCS officials are now in talks with bosses from Beis, ISS and Aramark.

But strikers have rightly said they won’t go back to work until they see an offer in writing—and their other demands are met.

Cleaner Roman told Socialist Worker, “Until it’s written in black and white on paper, we are staying out.

“Everyone is happy to keep going.”

Another worker said strikers won’t go back until they get an acceptable offer over sick and holiday pay. Currently they are only entitled to statutory sick pay and 20 days’ holiday.

Challenging

“It’s not only the pay we’re challenging,” she said. “It’s the other conditions.

“I had a fall in the building while working and had to take two days off. They didn’t pay me for that.

“Other people have had hospital appointments and there’s no support.”

The worker said strikers would need to know that, if they got the LLW, it would increase every year. “We need to thrash that out before we go in,” she said.

Previous pay rises for Beis workers have since been outstripped by inflation.

The move on LLW by Beis was won by strikers’ determination to stay out, and by an escalation in the action.

Porters, post room, security and reception workers joined the strike for two weeks, ending on Friday of last week. They plan rolling action—one week on strike and one week off—from Monday of next week.

Cleaners and caterers hoped to speak to striking cleaners at tax offices in Bootle via Skype this week.

And Beis strikers planned to join the climate rally in London this Friday.

Roman said the news that Beis might back down has made strikers “more confident to stay out”.


Civil service strikes soon

Outsourced workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were set to begin a week-long strike from Thursday.

The cleaners, porters and maintenance workers—members of the PCS union—are fighting a battle over low pay and union recognition.

They have returned to strikes after talks between PCS and the outsourcer Interserve broke down.

Interserve wants to make it harder for the PCS to achieve union recognition.

And bosses have not resolved issued such as changes to pay dates.

Meanwhile, IT workers in the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in Nottingham and Swansea began the fourth week of a month?long strike on Monday.

The PCS union members are battling against staff shortages and bosses’ plans to increase working hours.

Their action could be followed by strikes by other workers in the DVSA as part of a rolling plan of action.

They include driving test examiners and vehicle safety enforcers.


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