PCS Members In ISS Ballot For £10 An Hour
PCS members employed by ISS to clean and maintain the HMRC (the government’s tax collection department) offices in Birmingham have been balloted for strike action and over 97% of votes are for strike action on a turnout of nearly 90%. This ballot is an extension of the strike action already taken by their colleagues in Liverpool and Bootle in 2019. Those PCS members have to be balloted again under the anti trade union laws which mean that any strike ballot is valid for a maximum of 6 months.
ISS, a global outsourcer based in Denmark, had global turnover in 2018 of over £7 billion with global profits of over £400 million. These large profits are achieved through the blatant and unashamed exploitation of their workforce. The ISS workers being balloted are on minimum wage and given the statutory minimum terms and conditions. Their fight is for £10 an hour and terms and conditions equivalent to those given to the HMRC workers whose offices they clean.
PCS has attempted to negotiate with ISS for these reasonable demands. The response from ISS has been that if HMRC pays more money for the contract then ISS will pay their staff more. HMRC’s position is that this is a matter between ISS and its workers and they won’t be getting involved. The workers are being betrayed by both sides and are left with no choice but to take strike action.
Last year ISS staff cleaning offices for the department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy took indefinite strike action for months and won the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour plus improved terms & conditions. This shows that workers that take action can win. With that in mind the question is why there’s no leadership from the top of PCS to encourage more branches to bring ISS workers into the union and into the struggle for better pay and terms & conditions.
What’s needed now is a strategy from PCS to resist further outsourcing to companies like ISS and to bring outsourced services back in-house so that workers automatically benefit from the collective agreements. This would allow PCS to recruit more members amongst ISS and to coordinate and extend the existing industrial action. This type of strategy isn’t available from the existing PCS NEC majority which has already decided its only focus is pay for the core civil service. That’s why the formation of the Broad Left Network will take forward issues for members by campaigning on all of the issues that matter to our members rather than setting demands and members against each other. If you are a PCS member then please vote for Broad Left Network candidates in the upcoming 2020 NEC elections.
HMRC Coventry Redundancies – Unions Must Fight For All Jobs!
Workers at HMRC (the tax office) in Coventry have now been put on the path to redundancy ready for Sherbourne House to be closed in September 2020. This is the latest step in HMRC’s estates plan, mis-named ‘Building Our Future’. Once complete it will mean the closure of tax offices in Birmingham, Coventry, Merry Hill, Northampton, Solihull, Telford and Wolverhampton with workers moved into two offices – one new office in Birmingham and one existing office in Telford.
There are roughly 200 workers currently based at Sherbourne House. This is down from a peak of around 450 workers 10 years ago. There’s been a loss of people through retirements but the biggest loss is due to resignations. Many staff, unhappy with the way HMRC has ignored them and their needs, have simply left to pursue a future elsewhere in Coventry rather than waiting to be forced out. HMRC has repeatedly told workers and politicians that 90% of the workforce are within ‘Reasonable Daily Travel’ of the new Birmingham office. Information from management now shows that just 68 staff will be moving to Birmingham. Questions need to be asked about how a government department has been allowed to repeatedly lie to workers, to the PCS union and to politicians of all colours at local and national levels.
If a third of staff move from other other offices outside of Birmingham then it will leave HMRC woefully understaffed at a time when Boris Johnson is making spending promises in the hopes of bribing the Midlands and North of England to continue to support him. HMRC knows this problem is looming and has been regularly recruiting new staff into Birmingham. But new staff can’t replace the 1,000’s of years of accumulated knowledge and experience that’s about to be lost.