Outsourced caterers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) marched back to work victorious on Monday morning, ending an indefinite strike.
The caterers, who work for outsourcer Aramark, won their demands for the London Living Wage and improved holiday and sick pay.
Bosses gave in after the PCS union members spent almost 12 weeks on strike—having walked out indefinitely on 16 July.
“This is better than winning the lottery,” one striker, Ana, told Socialist Worker. “This was a fight for all our rights.
“We were noisy and determined—and we didn’t quit. We said, it doesn’t matter how long it takes.”
For the caterers, the agreement marks the end of a battle that has been raging since January.
After a series of strikes, bosses raised wages to £9.05. But the workers stuck to their guns and decided on an all-out strike until their demands were met.
Their determination has won them £10.55 an hour to be raised every year and increased annual leave and overtime.
They’ve also won the right to sick pay from the first day of sickness and double the number of days at full pay.
“Maybe they thought we would be happy with £9.05 an hour,” said Ana. “But we were fighting for £10.55.
“We told the union, we’re not going to quit and they agreed to support us on an indefinite strike.”
“We weren’t asking for gold or diamonds,” she added. “We were asking for the living wage.
“Aramark said they couldn’t afford it. Now they’ve given us the money—the money was there.
“We put them to shame. Now they know who they’re dealing with. We’re going to go back with our heads up. We’re very proud.”
The battle isn’t over for many other workers. Cleaners, porters and security staff are waiting for a similar deal with their employer, outsourcer ISS.
Until then, they are still on strike—but the union says it is “hopeful of an imminent breakthrough in talks”.
Roman, a cleaner employed by ISS, told Socialist Worker he was looking forward to getting a deal soon. “It took a few months to get Aramark and ISS in proper talks with the union” he said. “That tells you how these companies operate.”
He added, “It will be hard for the Aramark workers to go back without us because we were all striking together. We’re 100 percent with them because we’re all together.”
Ana and Roman both said they hoped the victory could be an inspiration to people in other workplaces fighting low pay and outsourcing.
“I hope this will be a lesson for others,” said Ana. “Rain and shine we were outside making noise. That’s why we won.
“These companies forget that it’s people like us who make them what they are.
“I hope others will look at us and say, ‘We have these problems too. We need to sort it.’”