Posts Tagged ‘PCS’

3 Years of BEIS poverty pay

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

The PCS has many low-paid members working in government departments, including the BEIS, or to give it the full and perhaps deliberately unwieldy name, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It was created by Theresa May on 14 July 2016 when she amalgamated the  Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) probably in part as a way of downplaying the government response to climate change. It appears to have become something of a parking place for some of the least able of our politicians, and at the time of its third birthday the minister in charge was Greg Clark, then Member of Parliament for Tunbridge Wells, since replaced by Andrea Leadsom.

Clark’s picture appears on some of the placards and on the birthday cake which had rather more then 3 candles on it as the picture at the top of the page shows and which many of us present had a piece at the end of the protest.

This was the start of the first ever indefinite strike at a government ministry, with cleaners and catering workers coming out on strike to demand the London Living Wage and to be directly employed by the BEIS rather than outsourcing companies ISS and Aramark.

Given this it was perhaps hardly surprising that there were an unusual number of Labour party and trade union speakers at the event, with the PCS president, general secretary and national vice-president joined by the general secretaries of two other unions, a Labour MP and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell as well as several other leading trade unionists, all of whom appear in my pictures on My London Diary.

But the stars of the show were the workers. I was standing in the right place to capture the picture with all the candles on the cake lit, but most of the press photographers were to one side, and some of them decided to get the workers to turn around towards them. Unfortunately while they moved, the wind blew out all the candles before they could be blown out. So the image apparently showing the candles being blown out is a little piece of fake news staged for the press – as my caption for it made clear, as does the absence of any smoke from the candles that had been extinguished some seconds earlier, allowing it to clear.

More at BEIS workers begin indefinite strike.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

BEIS outsourcing protest

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

One of many promises made by leading members of the Labour Party is that when they come to power they will put an end to the scandal of out-sourcing, which enables employers to retain the veneer of respectability while having workers engaged on key roles in their workplaces employed on wages and conditions that amount to exploitation.

Probably even Greg Clark MP, the current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, would not stoop to employing staff on the wages and minimal conditions of service that catering and other workers at BEIS receive, and with the kind of management practices that outsourcing companies use to make a cut-price bids for contracts.

The workers at BEIS are fortunate to be supported by the PCS BEIS London and South branch; too often the major unions have failed to show much concern for the lowest paid workers, other than over them paying their union fees. Too often they have shown themselves more concerned about pay differentials and prepared to reach agreements with managements that fail to protect the interests of workers on low pay, a situation that has led to the growth of a number of small active grass-roots unions, often attacked by the traditional unions for ‘poaching’ their members as well as for their militancy.

Of course there are a number of branches of major unions who have fought for low paid workers, both their members and also others in their workplaces. At BEIS the PCS have shown how unions should behave to support low paid workers, and have also worked together with grass-roots trade unions at other government workplaces to coordinate actions.

The dispute at BEIS (and another at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) are continuing, and it seems to be one the government are fighting more as a matter of supporting the principle of being free to exploit your workers than a matter of economics. It seems to be also one where ministers are happy to break the law, in May and June agency workers were brought in to cover the work of strikers in contravention of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations of 2003.

The workers have had enough. Tomorrow lunchtime, Monday 15th July catering workers and cleaners “will walkout in the first EVER indefinite strike action in Whitehall. They down tools and say “we’re not coming back til you pay up!”.

More at Living wage at Dept of Business.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Outsourcing Unfair

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Outsourcing – putting parts of an organisation’s business out to tender to be carried out by other companies is an unfair employment practice, though unfortunately legal in the UK.

Labour Shadow Business minister Laura Pidcock

Almost always outsourcing leads to lower standards of service, the job in various ways not being done as well, cutting corners in various ways to cut the costs. It may not even actually reduce the costs of the organisation, but enables them to avoid the legal responsibilities of being an employer, while still having effective control over the hours, pay and conditions of workers.

Cutting costs means paying the workers less and working them harder, cutting conditions of service to the bone, employing extra managers to bully them into doing jobs faster. Often too, cutting safety standards, and failing to provide proper equipment to keep them safe at work.

Chris Williamson MP

Many of the workers who suffer the worst of this are migrant workers, sometimes with a poor knowledge of English and not aware of their rights under our labour laws, and companies employing them have often taken advantage of this. Changes in employment law brought in under the Tories since 2010 have made it more difficult and expensive to take employers to tribunals, and few of the older unions have taken on the task of recruiting and representing low paid workers on any major scale.

Over the past ten years or so, new grass roots worker-led unions have taken up the challenge of representing low-paid workers – many of whom are outsourced – along with a few branches of the major unions, and a few campaigning unions such as the Baker’s union. They have called for all workers to be paid a true living wage – in London the London Living Wage – and for conditions of service – sick pay, holiday pay pensions etc – on a similar basis to those enjoyed by higher paid workers.

Petros and Claudia from United Voices of the World

On Feb 26, coordinated strike action was being taken by outsourced workers at the Ministry of Justice, Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of London, organised together by the two grass roots unions, the United Voices of the World (UVW) and the Independent Workers Union (IWGB) and by the PCS branch from the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

It was also the day of a High Court challenge by the IWGB to extend the legal rights of 3.3 million outsourced workers by bringing the concept of ‘joint-employer’ status, long accepted in the US, to English law. Unfortunately the court, in a decision announced later, rejected the union’s case, though the fight continues, and the Labour Party have promised to put an end to the unfair employment practice of outsourcing when in government.

The day had started early for the protesters, with a picket at the University of London and a protest outside the court. I met with them after they had marched on to Parliament Square and then continued to protests at BEIS and the Ministry of Justice.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing
Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS
Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images