Second victory at BEIS

Submitted by AWL on 23 October, 2019 - 8:32 Author: John Moloney, PCS Assistant General Secretary (in a personal capacity)

On 21 October our members working for the contractor ISS at BEIS (the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy) won a complete victory in their dispute.

This follows a victory for catering staff at BEIS, employed by another contractor, Aramark, on 4 October.

Now porters, security, post room, cleaners and receptionist staff have also won the London Living Wage, improved sick pay, and a number of other conditions.

The victories can be put down to one factor: all-out indefinite strike action, which isn’t that common these days.

At FCO (the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) we’ve been in a dispute with another contractor, Interserve, for over six months. Because of the Trade Union Act 2016, we have had to re-ballot to continue the dispute.

The result of that re-ballot came in on 21 October: an overwhelming vote to continue action, with a good turnout, well above the threshold.

I think we’ll now be discussing escalation. There is the possibility, if the members want it, to go to all-out strike there too.

Cleaners represented by PCS are currently in dispute with ISS where they hold a contract with the HMRC in Liverpool. We’re looking at extending that dispute to other sections in similar conditions, and maybe to more extended action.

Almost all the contracts in “facilities management” these days are held by five or six big companies. The pay and conditions for workers vary from contract to contract.

Usually bids for the contracts are submitted on the basis either of minimum wage, or of Living Wage. Then most departments pick a minimum-wage bid.

At BEIS the staff were on the minimum wage, but now they’ve won the Living Wage.

We have written to the Government saying that we want all those outsourced workers on the Living Wage and with sick pay from day one and other conditions, and that we want the PCS to be recognised for all those contracts.

Our true aim is to bring all that work back inside the civil service, and onto civil service pay and conditions.

On the 29 November climate strike, we’ve been told by the students that they will welcome workers taking action that day, but they’re not making the same call to workers that day as on 20 September. I believe there may be a fresh call for more general action in the New Year.

The PCS general secretary ballot opens on 7 November and closes on 12 December. Unlike some unions, PCS puts no restrictions on what the candidates can put out in the way of leaflets, social media posts, and so on. The only restriction is that they can’t use the membership database to circulate material.

There are no compulsory, centrally-organised hustings, but PCS branches and other bodies of the union are free to organise as many hustings with the three candidates as they wish.

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