Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to support services giant Interserve protesting its treatment of maintenance and cleaning staff at King Charles Street.
The revelation came amid a five-day strike over pay and cuts to terms and conditions mounted by contract workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who are members of the PCS union.
PCS said that while Conservative Party leadership hopeful Hunt had “hurried past” picketers on one of last week’s five strike days, he subsequently said he had read a pamphlet outlining staff grievances and had written to Interserve about it.
Hunt last week finished second only to foreign-secretary predecessor Boris Johnson in the first round of voting to find the next Tory leader. He is the contender that Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart will be looking to beat to get to the leadership contest’s final stage.
The party rank and file will then choose between the two remaining candidates, one of whom is likely to be current favourite Johnson.
PCS said its striking Interserve members had caught Hunt as he went into work on Thursday, and that he had told staff of his support for their cause.
“He approached and explained that he had read the PCS strike leaflet and expressed his unhappiness with Interserve,” PCS said.
The union added that members were also grateful to FCO civil service colleagues who had stopped to offer their support and donate to their fighting fund – as had colleagues from other departments.
PCS said striking members had last week collected more than £650 on the picket line to support the low-paid staff, with additional funding coming from online donations.
Separately, support staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will today begin five days of strike action in a dispute over the London Living Wage.
Catering and cleaning staff will take action from today, and will be joined by porters and security staff from Tuesday to Thursday.
PCS said that contractors Aramark and ISS who run security, catering, cleaning and support services at BEIS have refused to pay the 2019 London Living Wage rate, which is £10.55 an hour.
The union called on business secretary Greg Clark to put pressure on ISS and Aramark to pay workers properly.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This escalation of action by our members shows the strength and depth of feeling they have about how they are being treated.
“To take one day’s strike action takes guts. But to run a sustained period of industrial action is heroic.
“Our union will continue to fight tooth and nail for our members for as long as it takes. Greg Clark needs to heed the message staff in his building are sending him.”
Last month PCS’s conference in Brighton agreed to an in-year increase in subscriptions in a move destined to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds for a “fighting fund” to support members through strike action.