HMRC cleaners suspend industrial action following dispute victory

Cleaners working in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offices have called off industrial action after their hours were reinstated this week.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union announced that they would be suspending industrial action after the HMRC subcontractor, ISS, agreed to reinstate hours it had cut from workers’ shifts.

In April, ISS told staff that it could not afford the National Living Wage – which would hike the minimum hourly rate by 50p – and dropped the cleaners’ hours as a result.

The cut particularly hurt female workers, leaving them below the 30-hour-a-week threshold that entitles them to working tax credits, leaving some £40 – £50 a week worse off as a result.

Members of the PCS union staged an early walkout in July, and had planned further action for September.

But following the threat of further strikes, ISS has now agreed to the union’s terms, which state that its members’ hours must be reinstated, alongside proposals to reduce hours in other HMRC sites being suspended immediately.

The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “We welcome the restoration of cleaners’ hours, although this would never have been achieved without our members taking action.

“We hope the company is genuinely committed to meaningful talks on this and other issues. And we hope HMRC and other government departments have got the message that we will not allow them to simply pass the buck when low-paid staff are being treated unfairly in their workplaces.”

Andrew Firman, employment specialist at Carter Lemon Camerons LLP, said: “This is the latest embarrassing example of a large organisation showing itself ignorant about the extent to which end users are getting a raw deal at the bottom of a complex supply chain.

“Back in May, it was the receptionist at PWC sent home from work for not wearing high heels and the Big Four accountancy firm sought to distance itself from the employment practices of its outsourced reception firm. Now HMRC are cast in an unfavourable light and it emphasises the need to both understand the significance of public perception and to keep on top of the employment practices of your suppliers.”