Outsourced employees working at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Ministry of Justice and the University of London are undertaking strike action today (Tuesday 26 February 2019) in a bid to end the practice of outsourcing and achieve the living wage.
The industrial action, which commenced at 8.00am, has been organised by a collaboration of trade unions, including the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), United Voices of the World (UVW), BEIS L&S PCS Union and RMT London Transport Regional Council.
The strike is scheduled to take place across three sites. Cleaners and security officers who are members of UVW are striking at the Ministry of Justice, PCS members who work as cleaners, security staff or in catering at BEIS are taking action there, while cleaners who are members of IWGB and work at the University of London are undertaking strike action at the Russell Square campus.
Those on strike are seeking the living wage, equal terms and conditions to directly employed staff and for an end to the practice of outsourcing. IWGB states that outsourcing means poorer pay, holiday entitlements, sick pay and pension contributions than direct employment.
Today’s strike, named the #CleanUpOutsourcing march, also coincides with legal action the IWGB trade union is taking against the BEIS and the University of London, relating to the employment rights of outsourced staff.
Rebecca Long Bailey, member of Parliament (MP) and shadow secretary of state at BEIS, said: “For far too long [employees] in this country have suffered from worsening pay and conditions, while those at the top get richer.
“But, seeing these mainly migrant [employees] from different unions come together to push back against the scourge of outsourcing gives me hope for the future of the Labour movement and the UK as a whole.
“These cleaners, receptionists and other outsourced [staff] have the courage to stand up and fight back, so we as the Labour party will be by their side every step of the way.”
A spokesperson at the Ministry of Justice added: “We are committed to lifting the salaries of the lowest paid members of staff and demonstrating that everyone is valued equally for their contribution, including our vital support staff.
“Of course, we do not have unlimited resources, we have to work within our financial constraints, but we will continue to work with our suppliers to improve conditions in line with our values, and across government to pursue this important issue.
“The independently advised national living wage, which we strictly enforce in all our contracts, has helped to deliver the fastest wage growth for the lowest paid in 20 years; the most recent rise in April [means] full-time [employees] will earn an extra £600 a year.”
A spokesperson at the BEIS said: “All of our staff are valued members of the BEIS team and all deserve a fair and competitive wage, whether directly employed or working for our contractors.
“Following a review of contractor pay, the department has agreed with its contractors [to] align the pay of cleaning, catering, mailroom and security staff with pay rates for [staff] in comparable roles. This will take effect on 1 March.”
The University of London is unavailable for comment at time of publication.