BEIS: ready for a long fight (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by AWL on 20 July, 2021 - 6:47 Author: John Moloney
BEIS strikers

Outsourced workers at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) strike from 19-21 July. We’re prepared for a long dispute there if necessary. Neither ISS, the outsourced contractor, nor BEIS itself has offered a settlement to avoid the strike, so our members will continue taking action.

Cleaners and toilet attendants at the Royal Parks will strike on 30 July. On the day of the strike, there’ll be a mass meeting where members will discuss any offer from the employer, if one’s been made, and discuss further action. Reps are proposing an ongoing programme of strikes totalling 17 days, but the meeting will also hear other ideas and proposals from members. We’re working closely with the United Voices of the World in this campaign.

We have commenced talks with Mitie, which employs security workers across a number of different civil service contracts. They’ve paused their restructure for now, but haven’t committed to taking the threat of fire and rehire off the table. I will be writing to them shortly asking for a binding guarantee that fire and rehire won’t be used. Of course, we’re not only interested in how Mitie makes changes; we will also oppose any detrimental changes to members’ terms and conditions, whether imposed by fire and rehire or by any other means.

Union pressure succeeded in forcing a climbdown from bosses at the Southbank Centre in London, where management planned a re-grading that would have led to pay cuts for workers at the Hayward Gallery, which is part of the centre. They’ve backed off from that plan for now, but it shows how precarious things are in the culture sector. We’ll give our members the tools to organise and fight back.

Our National Disputes Committee will meet on 19 July, and set the timetable for the re-ballot of workers at the DVLA complex in Swansea. This is something we’re forced to undertake due to the anti-union laws. It will be a challenge, but we’re confident. The first ballot only narrowly cleared the thresholds, but the strikes have been so well supported that we’re confident of a higher turnout this time.

The “back to work” drive in Job Centres continues. Not only does the employer want more people back in office, it wants claimant interviews to take place across desks with no screens, meaning the claimant and the job coach will be face-to-face, putting both at risk. My view is that we must organise for action to prevent this reckless endangerment of workers and claimants.

• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS, writing here in a personal capacity

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