The breakdown of talks with ACAS has led to the calling of another five days of walkouts.
Industrial action by Interserve members covering the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) contract was suspended in July due to positive progress in ACAS talks between PCS and management. However, these talks broke down last week due to intransigence from Interserve and a further break down in trust. Strike action has been called for five days, over a seven day period, on 19, 20, 23, 24 and 25 September.
In July, Interserve agreed with PCS for ACAS to carry out a 'membership check', where ACAS independently check how many of the staff within the agreed 'bargaining unit' are members, and if there are more than 50% recognition is granted. However, after the check took place, it was revealed that Interserve had increased the pre-agreed bargaining unit by 20% to include office-based support staff who had not been part of the dispute. This meant that recognition would be subject to a ballot of staff, which would be run by ACAS.
There had already been unfounded allegations that union reps were intimidating members, and Interserve said they would tell staff about the undisclosed 'down sides' of having union recognised in the workplace. Therefore, PCS members feel that they cannot trust Interserve to honour the ballot outcome, as the process is not legally binding. Members unanimously agreed before the ACAS meeting that if Interserve would not agree to recogniton then they would have no choice but to serve notice of strike action.
Rather than make life easier for the FCO, for members and themselves by recognising the union, Interserve continue to play games at great financial cost to them and at reputational risk to the FCO.
Interserve recognises PCS in other government departments, and has recognised PCS in the FCO before. They have also recognised another trade union in the past for the same staff. Interserve in the FCO is now attempting to play staff off against each other in an attempt to blame the union for the breakdown of trust.
There are still other outstanding issues from the dispute that have not been resolved, including the buy-out of the contractual pay date change, the promise to move back to monthly pay rather than fluctuating daily pay, and the cutting by half of working hours for cleaners.
PCS industrial office Helen Flanagan said: "PCS members working for Interserve in the FCO are resolute; the only time Interserve has conceded anything has been through their industrial strength. If Interserve does not stop playing games, and refuses to treat its staff fairly, then they have no choice but to take further strike action. We hope that the FCO senior officers will finally intervene and stop this poor treatment happening on their premises. The government should take action and bring this work back in-house; facilities workers should not be second class citizens."
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