Cleaners, security guards and other support staff employed by ISS and working at the department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are preparing to take strike action. They have achieved a resounding yes vote in a Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) industrial action ballot.
The vote for strike action was 97.3% in favour, with an impressive turnout of 82%. This shows the determination of the workers to fight back against poor pay and worsening conditions. It also shows the effectiveness of good workplace organisation, which has given these workers the confidence to express their anger.
Unlike many other government departments, BEIS was designated a ‘key department’ for the implementation of Brexit. As such, it has kept its offices open for civil servants throughout the pandemic.
The work of the cleaners, security guards and other support staff, whose contracts are outsourced to ISS, have been essential in keeping the office spaces open and safe during COVID.
The ISS workers at the London office of BEIS are demanding:
- An end to low pay and improved working conditions
- Extra bonuses for working through lockdown
- Annual leave entitlement owed from last year
In addition to this, PCS has raised concerns about COVID safety of the workplace and staff. They are therefore calling for clear return to work protocol from the department bosses.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka remarked:
“ISS is treating its staff appallingly and despite repeated strike actions in recent years, it seems the contractor has not learnt its lesson. Support staff are poorly paid and the least they deserve is a decent rise and to be treated with dignity at work.”
PCS has also pointed to the hypocrisy of BEIS launching a “workers’ rights watchdog” to supposedly make sure workers in the UK are treated well post-Brexit, while allowing such appalling treatment of the workers employed by a contractor in their own offices.
The union has rightly argued that BEIS has responsibility for the company they choose to contract, and the way they treat their workforce. PCS has demanded that BEIS ends their contract with ISS, brings the workers in-house, and commits to improving conditions and pay.
While the bosses and the Tory government were happy to ‘clap for key workers’, it is clear in the aftermath of the pandemic that this really was an empty gesture. They are now hell-bent on making the same key workers bear the brunt of the cost for COVID – be that in non-existing pay rises, worsening workplace conditions or unsafe workplaces.
The only way forward for workers is to unite and fight back!
Having delivered such a mandate for strike action, the BEIS outsourced workers are clearly prepared to show their mettle. We support their demands fully.
Beating the ISS is the first step. The next is to face down the Tory government that allows such heinous practices to go on. Only with worker’s control will such practices finally be consigned to the dustbin of history.