21 October 2021

My job matters

In this edition we meet Merline Chambers, a catering assistant employed by Aramark. This is part of series of articles focussing on the PCS key workers that have kept us safe and workplaces running during the pandemic. 

Tell us about your job?
I am part of a team of 18 staff outsourced by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to provide catering services. It’s a good team and I really enjoy providing great customer service to the diverse customers I meet.

What are the issues for Aramark staff?
Like so many outsourced workers we have low pay, and the inadequacy of statutory sick pay has been highlighted by the pandemic. However, all my Aramark colleagues are PCS members and by campaigning together we have won better pay, sickness, and holiday entitlements. We are currently campaigning for BEIS to bring us in-house and make us civil servants.

Tell us how you won better pay, sick and holiday entitlement?
First we had to realise our own collective power. Then we found out the number one issue PCS members wanted to change and persuaded everyone we could change things collectively through PCS. As most staff are in the union, we put our demands to management who simply rejected them. We then knew that we had to get organised and do something big to make them listen. 

We had several strikes during 2019 which eventually led to us winning the real Living Wage and improvements to sickness and holiday pay. We had excellent support from our PCS colleagues who are employed directly by BEIS and could not have achieved what we did without them. We won trade union recognition which means that we now negotiate directly with management, and since 2019 we have improved our pay, sick and holiday entitlement year on year. It was a struggle but also a confidence builder and I have gone on to be a PCS rep.