Support staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are to strike over pay after the Public and Commercial Services trade union announced a ballot had received “overwhelming” support for industrial action.
The union’s BEIS branch announced last month it would begin industrial action proceedings due to what it said was the failure of outsourcing companies Engie and Aramark to pay cleaning and other support staff the London living wage and to provide sick pay and equal holiday terms.
The branch said it had been in talks with BEIS for two years to improve pay and conditions for support staff at the department’s 1 Victoria Street headquarters, as well as various offices around the country and partner organisations. However, those discussions broke down after businesses secretary Greg Clark said he was asking officials to conduct a review of pay and conditions, instead of making changes.
The union yesterday announced that it had received a 100% yes vote for strike action among staff, including security, receptionists, post room and porter staff, on a 72.7% turnout
General secretary Mark Serwotka said the “overwhelming endorsement for strike action shows the strength of feeling amongst our members” and called on the department to bring support services in house.
“The contractors at BEIS have treated them disgracefully and all our members ask is to be on the same terms and conditions as their BEIS colleagues,” he said.
“Ministers at the department need to step in and bring these services back in house as a matter of urgency.”
A statement by the union’s branch in the department said the strike “followed two years of unproductive attempts to start negotiations on this issue with senior management and ministers within BEIS”, and highlighted that several other government departments, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Trade insist that all outsourced staff re paid the London Living Wage, which currently stands at £10.55.
Staff were angry when Clark announced on 20 November he would hold a review of the pay and conditions of the department’s support staff, with left workers with little choice but to ballot for strike action, according to the branch statement.
“Part of the dispute is the workers’ demand for occupational sick pay and equal holiday terms in keeping with the full-time in-house employees,” it stated.
It is expected action will be coordinated with the United Voices of the World Union (UVW), which represents support staff including security, receptionists, post room and porter staff and cleaners at the Ministry of Justice. MoJ cleaning staff took strike action in August to improve pay and conditions and the UVW are currently balloting security guards for further action.