Members of the PCS union have set up an emergency food bank at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s headquarters in London for support staff affected by a pay error by an outsourcing company.
Union officials sent an email to members appealing for donations after a number of staff employed by the outsourcer ISS World at the department said they had been paid late, the wrong amount or not at all.
The errors came to light as support staff prepared to strike next week to demand higher pay and an end to outsourcing of support services.
The email, seen by the Sunday Times, said that “every single payday” since the international facilities management firm took over the department’s support services contract on 1 March, staff had reported problems including late payments and “unexplained deductions” to their payslips.
PCS estimates that “dozens” of support staff have been affected by the errors, making it difficult for some of them to pay their rent or travel to work.
According to the department, pay issues have now been resolved, but a PCS spokesperson confirmed the food bank, which was set up at the end of last week, is still up and running.
They said BEIS staff were “appalled” that cleaners and other contract workers were facing financial hardship and had been “extremely generous” in donating items of food. The food bank, which was set up at the end of last week, is still up and running, they confirmed.
A BEIS spokesperson said: “We have ensured that any pay issue of contractors that ISS is aware of since it took over the contract has been resolved, with staff affected paid any monies owed.
“BEIS is in daily contact with ISS, who are meeting any additional costs incurred by staff due to the error and are contacting every contractor to ensure any further errors not yet identified are resolved within the same day.”
A spokesperson for ISS said: “ISS is aware of errors in processing some employees payroll since the mobilisation of the contract and we are extremely sorry for that. We have resolved the issues we are aware of, and we will be dealing with any new issues raised and paying money to those affected on the same day they’re raised.”
PCS has long advocated for support services at the department to be brought back in-house, contending that staff are not paid enough for their work.
Staff employed by both ISS and Aramark at the department’s Whitehall office are set to strike next week in an ongoing dispute over pay. The four days of action, from 21 to 24 May, follow industrial action in January over the same issue, before ISS took over the contract.
PCS is demanding that the contractors increase pay for their workers to the London living wage of £10.55 an hour. The action at BEIS coincides with strikes at the Foreign Office by workers employed by the outsourcer Interserve over employment conditions and threats of redundancy.
The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, accused ISS of rubbing “salt in the wounds” of staff who were already paid less than the LLW.
“This strike action will send a clear message to the contractors and the BEIS management that we will not stand by as a union while workers are treated so appallingly,” he said.
“We will campaign vigorously to win and we are not ruling out further strike action in other parts of BEIS across the country.”
The union will also ballot members employed by ISS in other departments if conditions do not improve.