Outsourced support staff strike at FCO over terms and conditions

Cleaners employed by Interserve in two-day strike due to concerns over contracts

Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

01 May 2019

Cleaners and support staff at the Foreign Office have begun two days of strike action over what the Public and Commercial Services trade union say is the imposition of poorer employment terms and threats of redundancy.

The staff, who also include porters, events managers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and handypersons, say the outsourcer Interserve has refused to negotiate with PCS on redundancies and possible contractual changes to pay dates, holiday pay and sick pay since the firm was awarded the FCO facilities management contract last August.

The contract was awarded despite worries about the company’s financial health, which led to it being taken over by its creditors after entering administration in March.


The concerns raised by unions include that back pay from increases they were due from August 2018 has not been paid, as well as a move to change weekly or monthly contractual salaried pay to an hourly rate, and a change in the employee’s pay date from 28th to the 11th of each month from this month. Unions have said this will cause financial hardship to many.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said members had told the union that changes to their pay dates had left them out of pocket and struggling to make ends meet.

“Workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are going on strike because they will not stand by while a failing company like Interserve attacks their terms and conditions and at the same time, refuses to negotiate with their union,” he said.

“The whole debacle shows that Interserve should never have been awarded the contract at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson told CSW that the department was open and operating as normal at its King Charles Street despite the strike, and said: “Members of the PCS union working for Interserve Group Limited are currently on strike but no FCO staff are involved in the dispute and FCO business is continuing as normal.”

A spokesperson for Interserve said: “The notice of ballot contains factually incorrect information and we do not believe that strike action is justified. Interserve re-bid and successfully secured the FCO contract last year.  This provided a revised operating structure to bring increased local delivery for the services and increased job numbers.

“As part of that transformation for the contract, a small number of redundancies were identified, due to a reduction in the requirements of some specific roles and the needs of the client. Only four redundancies are being implemented (three of which are voluntary and/or agreed by those impacted).

“The small numbers of redundancies were not part of a wider plan to make job cuts. In addition, there is no proposal by Interserve to remove contractual sick pay where it forms part of an employee’s existing terms and conditions.”

This is the latest industrial; action by outsourced support staff in departments. In January, staff working at the Ministry of Justice and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy took action to demand the London living wage.

Read the most recent articles written by Richard Johnstone - Building the future: Stephen Boyd on making government property work for the civil service

Share this page
Read next