Outsourced workers at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have won a hugely significant victory.
Their sustained campaign of strikes, which has included an all-out, indefinite strike, has forced Aramark, one of the outsourced contractors, to concede the London Living Wage of £10.55. The dispute with ISS, the other contractor at BEIS, continues, but following the win with Aramark we are hopeful for a win over ISS as well.
Now the task is to consolidate these gains by pushing for union recognition, not just at BEIS but across the civil service.
PCS has written to the civil service as a central employer to demand that PCS is given recognition to bargain on behalf of all workers on the civil service estate, not just those who are employed directly, and we’ll be following that up with a concerted unionisation drive amongst outsourced workers. Our ultimate goal is for outsourcing to be reversed, so workers currently employed by outsourced contractors become directly-employed civil servants.
The victory at BEIS has been won by an exemplary campaign that has very much been led from the ground up, by rank-and-file activists in the branch. They have organised vibrant picket lines and made links across the labour movement.
They had the courage to step up and escalate their action when it was necessary, launching an indefinite strike — a tactic now rarely seen in the labour movement. The national union supported that by providing strike pay, which is precisely the role a national union structure should play in a dispute like this — that is, facilitating and supporting the dispute to help it win, rather than putting obstacles in its path.
The victory at BEIS will embolden our other ongoing disputes involving outsourced workers, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and amongst HMRC cleaners in Merseyside. At the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we now need to re-ballot as the dispute has gone on for more than six months, but we’re confident of winning that ballot.
In both disputes, workers need to discuss where to go next. The courage the BEIS strikers showed in escalating their action when necessary will hopefully provide inspiration.