Outsourced workers’ disputes in the civil service are spreading. Cleaners, porters, and maintenance workers employed by the contractor Interserve at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office began a five day strike on 10 June.
The situation for the workers there is acute: Interserve hasn’t paid them since 28 April, plunging many of them into severe hardship. The union is setting up food banks on the picket lines. We’ve called for a day of labour movement solidarity there on 12 June, where we hope other union branches, Labour Parties, socialist groups, and others will support the picket line.
Following this, there will be further strikes at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy from 17 June, again for five days, with picket lines, demonstrations, and other actions planned on each day. Security workers have just voted, by a 100% majority, to join that strike, and Aramark workers, who the union had to re-ballot due to the six-month time limit, also voted by 100% to continue action. ISS contractors are also involved. Altogether the strike involves cleaners, security workers, porters, caterers, and post room workers.
Also, from 17 June, we’ll be balloting cleaners employed by ISS in HMRC tax offices on Merseyside. The demands in that dispute are for living wages, better holidays, company sick pay, and job security guarantees for cleaners in offices threatened with closure.
All these workers do essential jobs within many government departments. Their labour makes the buildings run, but outsourcing means they have vastly worse pay, terms, and conditions than their directly-employed civil service colleagues.
These disputes show that our union is making a serious effort to end that injustice and inequality. Our approach should be, “if you’re in the building, you’re in the union.”
If we can organise seriously amongst outsourced workers, we can spread and win these disputes.