Whitehall workers to strike for further 36 days as employer refuses to negotiate

Outsourced staff escalate industrial action at three government departments

Whitehall PCS workers strike

Low-paid, outsourced workers at three government departments have announced a further 36 days of strike action as their employer refuses to offer an improvement pay deal.

Cleaners, security staff and support service workers at The Department for Business and Trade, The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will walk out again as they fight for a fair pay rise.

The PCS union members work for the outsourced company ISS and initially took strike action having been offered a meagre below-inflation pay offer of 2.2%.

“Since the dispute started there has been no movement from the employer, no formal pay talks, which, for our members, is unacceptable,” said PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka.

“We will not sit back and allow employers to treat our members like this during a cost-of-living crisis.”

Since the dispute started, 10 days of strikes have taken place so far in September and October with just under 100 staff members asking for £16 an hour pay. During the strikes a number of MPs visited the picket line to express their support.

“There’s irony in those cleaning the offices of the Government department responsible for employment having to strike against poverty wages,” picket line attendee John McDonnell wrote on X.

PCS President Fran Heathcote said the striking workers provide cooking, cleaning and security services for some of the richest business people in the world, whilst at the same time are having to work two or three jobs just to get by.

Being outsourced also means they are having to work alongside people who have seen much bigger pay increases.

Furthermore, last year ISS made a profit of £73 million with 10 board members receiving almost £1 million between them in payouts, the PCS reported.

SE London Peoples Assembly wrote on X: “The Government is happy to let ISS rip off workers at Whitehall. ISS bills the government more because of inflation but simultaneously cut workers’ pay. These frontline workers deserve at least £16 an hour.”

Labour MPs including Richard Burgon and Mary Glindon have since called to end the ‘scourge’ of outsourced labour, with Glindon calling to, “end the race to the bottom for the pay and terms and conditions of vital workers due to outsourcing”.

The 36-day strike will start on 1 November until 15 December which will see the departments impacted and work disrupted.

The ISS staff are also to be re-balloted on their strike action which could see the dispute continue into 2024 if ISS continues to ignore workers demands.

(Image credit: PCS union)

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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