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Jeremy Hunt told "respect your workers" on FCO Interserve picket line

* FCO-cleaners.jpg"Show your workers some respect," foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt was told loud and clear from the picket line yesterday, on day three of the Interserve/Foreign and Commonwealth Office strike over pay and cuts to terms and conditions.

On another lively morning on the picket line, strikers were joined by Public & Commercial Services Union general secretary Mark Serwotka, PCS president Fran Heathcote, assistant general secretary John Moloney, TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak and Labour party parliamentary candidate (Cities of London and Westminster) Steven Saxby.

As the former health secretary and his entourage came into view, Mr Saxby shouted to him to show the striking workers some respect: "Jeremy Hunt, we are saying to you to show some leadership today. It is not leadership to deny recognition to your workers. These workers deserve your respect, they deserve union recognition."

It is the second consecutive day that the prospective Tory leader has been greeted by pickets.

Mark Serwotka told the pickets that they deserve the respect of ministers and management because they do critical work without which departments wouldn't be able to function.

"Everybody deserves respect, whatever people's jobs are, you're working in the heart of Whitehall and the way you are being treated brings shame on the Foreign Office, on the civil service and across the road at BEIS. You deserve respect for the stand that you have made," he said.

He said the fact that two foodbanks have been set up in two government buildings in under a month was a "shameful situation".

"What you're doing is making a stand for union recognition, for the right to be consulted, for the bosses to realise delaying your pay may not make any difference to people who are on six-figure salaries but people like yourselves depend on your pay being paid on time," he said.

"We will be supporting your strike for as long as it takes for you to get justice and to walk back with your heads held high, in a union that is recognised, being consulted properly about your terms and conditions and everything else.

"But we shouldn't rest there. We believe every one of you should have the right to be a civil servant, worrying about your employer changing every few years, worrying about your conditions changing, worrying about whether your employer has even got the wherewithal to pay your wages on time."

On a day of union solidarity PCS DWP and London and the South East banners were proudly displayed on the picket line.

Paul Nowak said he was proud to be on the picket line: "I am proud to support your call for fair pay, fair treatment and above all a strong independent trade union voice. Collective bargaining and union organisation are a basic right and a basic right that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should support."

One striker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Huffington Post (which supplied our image):

"Most people don't get to say they enjoy their job. I can categorically say I do. To work at a government department gives you a sense of pride - a place where the UK is represented abroad as a beacon of tolerance and fairness.

"Unfortunately, these international values do not extend to how I and other staff have been treated in London. I work for a contractor called Interserve, who operate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). I have not been paid since the end of April.

"This is down to a new payment system where the date has been changed and I have been moved from salary to hourly pay. It means I am missing out on pay as each month has a different amount of days and hours.

"To rub salt in the wounds, I've found out my colleagues and I are not being paid the London Living Wage for 2019 either. When you are on low wages, every penny counts - literally.

"I now struggle to pay travel to get to work and if my pay issues are not sorted next month, I am worried that I won't be able to pay my rent. This is why I joined PCS and because of the company's complete refusal to engage, we have been on strike since Monday.

"I had never been on strike until last month and the experience has challenged many myths and assumptions I held about unions. As you can imagine, the pressures of not receiving what I am owed and supporting a family on top, weigh on my mind.

"I have gained incredible strength from the solidarity my colleagues have shown me and I hope I have helped them too. Self-sufficiency and being able to stand on my own two feet has always been important to me. But what I have learnt is a collective of people struggling to get what we are owed and what we deserve is far more powerful.

"The majority of staff doing the maintenance the cleaning and other support roles are mainly from other countries and have chosen to make Britain their home. It is quite the irony then that working for a calamitous contractor like Interserve, inside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, means you don't get paid properly. I have one colleague who is going to receive an MBE for his services to the FCO and the military, yet he has also joined us on strike.

"The most difficult thing for me is the fact I now need to use a foodbank which the union branch have kindly set up. Imagine going to tell your family and your children that you have to rely on handouts even when you have worked all your life? Imagine working flat out on your shift, knowing that you haven't been paid for last month's hard graft?

"And then try to imagine that this is happening to my colleagues and I as we step into the grandeur of the Foreign Office building - our shop door window to the world. What message does that send out to the world at large and to people like me who work there?

"This is not what anyone would expect to see at a government department, let alone at the FCO. It does dent your pride when you are not able to pay your way and this is precisely why I am in a union, to get my colleagues and I, a bigger slice of the cake in the form of a decent wage, to be paid on time and for PCS to be recognised in negotiations at work.

I am not asking for the world. I just want to be respected as a worker in the world in which I live."


13th June 2019

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