“We’ve no choice but to strike against a cruel and ruthless employer” – HMRC cleaner talks to UnionNews

PCS members at HMRC have been on indefinite strike over a Living Wage since July.

Here, one of them talks to union-news.co.uk about why they are taking action:

 Being a cleaner is not an easy job. It can be backbreaking work and you need good health and safety knowledge, training in usingchemicals and there are often targets for keeping offices clean.

However the job has gone from one I was happy to do and took satisfaction in, to one where I can’t wait till the end the day.

Things changed at HMRC when ISS took over the contract 7 years ago and this is why I am on strike today.

Originally we had 33 cleaners which meant 2 cleaners to each floor. When ISS took over the contract we were down to 15.

Now with further cuts and chronic low pay, our workforce has been reduced to 11. This means that we now just have 1 cleaner for 2 floors.

Obviously even with people working flat out it is not possible to clean everywhere as well as we want.

ISS bosses have shown no interest in us or the consequences of their cost cutting approach.

Morale is now at an all-time low but to compound matters as soon as some of my colleagues started to approach PCS for representation, ISS kept saying: “we don’t believe in unions.”

This tactic might have succeeded in the past but PCS had high profile success at BEIS where ISS cleaners and others won the London Living Wage after nearly a year-long campaign of strike action.

Seeing cleaners lead a strike campaign against a massive government department and winning was truly inspirational and has spurred on colleagues and myself.

We’ve got no choice but to strike because cutting of hours and chronic low pay have driven many members into financial hardship.

We all have families who rely on us and many of us have caring responsibilities both at work and at home.

The sword of Damocles hangs over us with ISS looking to complete their contract next year and move on and we are affected by the HMRC office closures problem.

Despite all these issues, joining PCS was the best thing I have ever done at work. A union is a friend in the good times and a last line of defence in the bad.

Only by staying united and strong can we finally force this cruel and ruthless employer to treat us with some dignity and pay us a Living Wage.

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