Socialist Worker

Foreign Office staff plan to step up struggle

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2692

Foreign office workers are holding a month-long strike

Foreign office workers are holding a month-long strike (Pic: PCS/Twitter)


Striking outsourced workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) plan to step up their fight against bosses at contractor Interserve.

The strikers—cleaners, caterers and maintenance workers—plan a series of protests as they head towards the final week of a month-long strike.

They want Interserve to recognise their PCS union after the private contractor attacked their pay and conditions.

Trade unionists and MPs—including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell—joined their picket line on Tuesday of last week.

Surprised

“Most of the shadow front bench came,” PCS rep and carpenter Terry Rose told Socialist Worker. “I was quite surprised.”

Aaron, another striker, said, “Support like that boosts our morale. Morale is high already, but it makes us feel as if we’re not alone.”

He added that strikers were encouraged when trade unionists from outside the Foreign Office arrived at the building—and refused to cross the picket line.

“Yesterday trade unionists from Unison, Unite and the TUC came down to talk inside about trade union recognition,” said Aaron.

“But when they realised we were on strike they refused to cross the picket line.”

The workers at FCO’s headquarters in central London have been fighting for more than a year. The battle began shortly after the FCO renewed Interserve’s contract in late 2018, when bosses launched a wave of attacks on pay and conditions.

They included cutting cleaners’ overtime, forcing them to work harder for less pay, and a raft of redundancies across the board. Changes to pay dates meant workers went for several weeks without pay.

Striker Mohammed told Socialist Worker that the strike can help “people to see what these outsourcing companies do”.

Money

“They cut a lot of our hours, they want us to do more work for less money,” he explained. “They’ve cut our sick pay.”

Bosses haven’t yet backed down, but strikers are determined. “We’re up for it,” said Mohammed.

“We mean business. We’re going to strike again if they don’t resolve this issue.”

“I haven’t heard anyone say they want to quit,” added Aaron. “Cleaners, porters, maintenance—we’re going to carry on until we get what we want. “We all have our own views on what to do next, but for me we can’t go back to having two or three day strikes—to Interserve that would be a sign of weakness.

“We have to increase what we’re doing.”

Some names have been changed


How to show support for the strikers

The PCS union is asking trade unionists and others in the labour movement to send solidarity to the Foreign Office strikers.

Show your support by:

  • Urging your MP to sign Early Day Motion 125—go to bit.ly/EDM125
  • Signing and publicising the union’s e-action—read more at bit.ly/PCSeaction
  • Donating to the PCS fighting fund at bit.ly/PCSfund
  • Sending messages of support to [email protected]
  • Visiting the picket line at Whitehall/King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH
  • Tweet your support using the hashtag #InterserveStrikers

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