Security staff, receptionists, and cleaners at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are the latest outsourced workers to enter into industrial action in London.
Organised by the United Voices of the World and PCS unions, these workers were on strike last week on 21-22 January. They are demanding a £10.55 London living wage, along with the same holiday and sick pay that civil servants and publicly employed staff at the MoJ and BEIS receive.
The security guards, cleaners and receptionists at these locations, in contrast, are not directly employed by the departments in which they work. Their contracts are outsourced to a company called OCS (Outsourced Client Solutions) who are renowned for exploitative contracts and dreadful working conditions.
The picket line on the strike days was energetic, with many students and campaign groups turning up to show solidarity. Several Labour shadow cabinet members also made an appearance to support the strike.
One picketer we interviewed said that the workers were glad and excited to finally be on strike. However, they stated that they were very angry with both OCS and the MoJ, who knowingly changed their contracts last January.
This striking worker stated that they were happy with the way that UVW, their union, was working for them. He told us that he is not only working as a security guard and putting in time as a union rep, but is also working another job as a plumber.
“I am moving jobs to be a plumber, but I still want to help with the strike, because for most workers there is no point moving from one bad job to another. It is better to stay in your job and fight for it to be better.”
He also recognised the political nature of outsourcing and casualisation, blaming the current Tory government and expressing support for Jeremy Corbyn.
In a short speech later on in the rally, Cristina, a security guard, called on her colleagues to: “Keep fighting, keep strong, and stay united.”
“Together we will win,” Cristina asserted. Solidarity with the MoJ and BEIS outsourced workers!