“I’m not afraid to take a stand” – war veteran on why he’s striking alongside PCS members at Interserve

Strike action is always a last resort and no one takes the decision lightly. When you have to take repeated action over several months, dealing with your employers’ attempts to undermine and bully staff, it is no easy task.

I work at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for a company called Interserve – a contractor who is refusing to recognise my union PCS.

They have attacked my colleagues and I by changing pay from monthly to daily, meaning wages fluctuate month to month, meaning no one can plan their lives. Some have even fallen into debt as a result, meaning we had to set up a foodbank at the department.

Colleagues who clean the FCO no longer have permanent full time contracts and some of our staff only get legal minimum sick pay.

Instead of trying to deal with staff and the union in a fair way, Interserve have resorted to pressuring some of us not to get involved with PCS and have deliberately scuppered talks with ACAS.

These talks were about trying to get the union officially recognised by the employer so we can have positive industrial relations where we can solve problems together.

However Interserve bosses are not interested in a just resolution and that is why I am on strike today. 

Disgracefully, the Foreign Office has refused to get involved and to rub salt into the wounds have implied we are not Foreign Office staff because we are contracted out.

I have worked for the FCO for over 30 years and have an MBE for my services. I am also a war veteran having served two tours in Afghanistan as a reservist.

As head porter, I am an integral part of the FCO and so are my colleagues who work hard to keep it clean, safe and supported.

If we weren’t in post, the lights would go out.  

We are FCO staff and we should be treated with respect.

Last weekend was an important one in remembering those who have served and respecting our veterans. I myself took part in those services remembering comrades who have fallen or been severely injured in the line of duty.

Yet staff at the Foreign Office – the place which leads on these important events, are being neglected on the altar of profit.

We shouldn’t be contracted out to a private firm to make millions at the expense of our working conditions and trade union rights.

Ultimately all of the contracted out services within government departments should be brought back in house.

But at the very least my colleagues and I should have decent conditions at work.

PCS recently won a superb victory at BEIS where staff doing similar work to us, won the London Living Wage after over 9 months of strikes.

We just want a fair settlement but we are prepared to fight tooth and nail if Interserve will not be reasonable.

I am not afraid to take a stand for what I believe in and I know my colleagues feel the same.

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