Socialist Worker

PCS union walkout escalates at Foreign Office

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2690

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ff (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Union members working for private contractors at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office began a month-long strike on Monday of this week.

The strike, in central London, is taking the fight to the government.

Workers are demanding that Tory foreign secretary Dominic Raab takes responsibility for staff in his own government department employed by outsourcer Interserve.

PCS union rep Terry Rose told Socialist Worker that strikers were “all ready to go” as they escalated their long-running dispute over pay and privatisation.

The strikers—including cleaners, maintenance workers and security guards—have been fighting bosses at Interserve for over a year.

Workers first struck in March last year after Interserve took over their contracts and launched sweeping attacks.

These included a change from monthly pay to daily pay, as well as a change to pay dates.

After workers complained to their union about the changes, bosses axed company sick pay and got rid of one PCS union rep in a wave of redundancies.

Overtime pay has been scrapped but cleaners are expected to cover the same amount of work, even if that means extra hours.

Demanding

Strikers are demanding that Interserve recognises PCS as their union, and have 98 percent membership among facilities staff.

Yet after initially appearing to concede to this during negotiations at conciliation service Acas, Interserve bosses included more workers in the “bargaining unit”.

This meant they could claim the PCS didn’t represent enough workers to demand recognition.

“Even Acas said they’d seen nothing like it,” said Terry. He added that after several months of shorter strikes, the workers were determined to escalate.

“We’ve struck at all the major events here, tried to hit them that way,” he said. “We’ve had a week-long strike. So now we’re going for a month.”

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