Our outsourced worker members at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office started a month-long strike on Monday 3 February.
There’ll be picket lines every day of that strike, which was a specific decision that the strikers themselves made. That’s not about engaging in some sort of PR exercise, it’s about the strikers understanding that effective strike action needs visible and effective picketing.
We’re appealing to the wider labour movement to actively support those picket lines and attend with flags and banners.
We’ve had good support so far, with John McDonnell and others visiting the picket lines to support the strike. We’re also asking supporters to email the FCO Secretary of State to tell them to pressure Interserve, the company which employs our members, to recognise the union — or alternatively to take the work in house.
We want recognition with Interserve, as the current employer, but our overall policy is that everyone working on the civil service estate should be a directly-employed civil servant, on civil service terms and conditions. We’re confident we’ll win recognition, and Interserve must be able to see, from the strength of the strike, that a majority of their employees on the FCO contract want a union.
There was also further action at Ealing Tax Office last week, opposing office closure, and we’re also looking to resume strikes by outsourced cleaners in HMRC offices in Merseyside. Those cleaners are employed by ISS, and we want to expand that dispute to other areas of the ISS contract in the civil service.
The union has also announced a national campaign around pay, pensions, and redundancies. That has to be rank-and-file led; national messaging and activity is vital, but the campaign needs local action committees and local campaigning. That’s necessary not only to get the message out to more members, but to revitalise and renew branch and workplace activism.
A key goal of this campaign, which may lead to an industrial action ballot, is to develop that rank-and-file involvement. There is a widespread recognition, which I fully agree with, that the national leadership can’t act like generals commanding an army. We need to develop the campaign in a way that is organic and that involves members at the grassroots, not as foot soldiers but as engaged activists.
• John Moloney is Assistant General Secretary of PCS, writing here in a personal capacity.