On the PCS FCO strike protest at the HQ of the employer Interserve, Feb 2020, photo by Paula Mitchell

On the PCS FCO strike protest at the HQ of the employer Interserve, Feb 2020, photo by Paula Mitchell   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Workers call on Interserve bosses to recognise union

Dave Semple, PCS National Executive Committee (pc)

On Wednesday 19 February, members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents civil and public servants, as well as private sector workers on government contracts, protested outside Interserve’s London headquarters on Waterloo Road.

Their demand was that Interserve recognise PCS and settle a dispute, ongoing now for nearly a year, with union members who work on Interserve’s contract with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Low paid workers from Interserve in the FCO took month-long strike action in February. The dispute began in March 2019 when Interserve unilaterally changed the dates of pay for their staff, inflicting financial hardship. This was the final straw for many staff.

Interserve in the FCO had stripped some staff of paid sick leave, it had illegally withheld annual leave from staff on short hour contracts and its use of temporary contracts made workers feel insecure and less likely to raise their concerns.

Strike action has led to significant concessions, including back pay worth thousands of pounds for some staff, who Interserve were ripping off.

It also resulted in a one-off payment for all staff, to compensate for hardship over the change of pay dates.

Recognise PCS!

But despite negotiating with PCS, Interserve refuses to recognise the union. This means the elected union reps are not entitled to time off to represent their colleagues.

This has been coupled with common union-busting tactics such as pretending all victories won by the union come from the goodness of management’s heart.

The protest on 19 February, supported by the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), the RMT and Socialist Party and Broad Left members of the PCS National Executive Committee, is an attempt to increase pressure on Interserve.

Unite loaned PCS its giant inflatable rat, and activists, including strikers, spoke on a microphone about the strike, about Interserve’s poor treatment of staff and about what was being done to win the strike, including further employment tribunals, political pressure and press work.

Several strikers attended wearing Dominic Raab masks, because they did not want to be identified by Interserve, but also because there is a sense of anger that the Tory foreign secretary has not intervened with Interserve to bring the dispute to a conclusion.

At the end of the rally, strikers spoke openly of the potential for escalating the dispute to all-out action, to force Interserve to do what it should have done a year ago: recognise PCS and lay out plans for serious negotiations.

The issues raised above are among the many reasons why it is important to fight for socialists to be in London’s City Hall. See a socialist manifesto for London and donate to the campaign for socialist policies in London’s May elections, at: www.londonsocialistparty.org.uk

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 22 February 2020 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.