Treat PCS Interserve strikers at the FCO with respect

PCS members working for private company, Interserve, at the Foreign Office (FCO) are taking a month’s strike action, the longest in the history of FCO.

All that they are asking for is to be treated with a bit of respect. The Foreign Secretary is responsible for every worker employed on FCO premises but refuses to get involved.

Going on strike for a month is a brave thing to do, many of these workers had never been on strike before, they are low paid and they are not treated well.

For some, English is not their first language, we calculated on the picket line on Wednesday that there are members from over 15 different countries involved. These members deserve our full support.

Interserve do not treat these members well. They refuse to recognise PCS, changed their contracts without agreement or buy-out, won’t give them proper payslips, didn’t take part in ACAS talks in a constructive way, reduced working hours for cleaners who took part in strike action, made some colleagues redundant since the strikes began, including two of our reps, and have spent a fortune on paying others to break the strike instead of getting around the table and trying to reach agreement. 

These members feel that they are treated as second class citizens and are asking for your support. Their demands are very simple, this dispute could be settled immediately but the employer appears to have ‘dug its heals in’!

The picket lines are loud and vibrant, with vuvuzelas at full blast! There are multiple entrances to cover but luckily PCS membership has quadrupled since they began this campaign and spirits remain high, even though it is often very cold.

On the picket line this morning, one member was telling us how the change from monthly to daily pay has left him out of pocket. This shoddy treatment has to end.

Next week, on Tuesday 11th February, to coincide with the TUC’s Heart Unions week, I am looking forward to hosting our ‘Solidarity day’ where we will hear from a number of speakers including TUC GS, Frances O’Grady and PCS GS, Mark Serwotka.

There is lots of support from other unions, MPs and local campaigners and at the Central London reps’ meeting this week, we discussed asking branches to ‘adopt a strike day’ when each branch could go along to the picket line on a given day to show solidarity and support. Some branches are now considering this.

Left Unity members in PCS fully support these low paid members in their struggle, they are only asking for what most of us take for granted.

Building the union has given them the opportunity to stand up for themselves and we will continue to stand with them in solidarity every step of the way.

Fran Heathcote