Cleaners working in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offices have called off industrial action after their hours were reinstated.
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.
Back in April, ISS told staff that it could not afford the National Living Wage – which would increase their minimum hourly rate by 50 pence – and dropped the cleaners’ hours as a result.
The cut particularly affected 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. However, 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.”
Lara Murray, an employment law expert with Palmers, said: “This is the latest high profile embarrassing example of a large organisation showing itself to be ignorant of working practices being implemented by agencies, which affect workers on their premises.
“Back in May, there was widespread media coverage of a receptionist employed by an agency to work at PWC. She was sent home from work for not wearing high heels and the big four accountancy firm sought to quickly distance itself from the questionable employment practices of its outsourced reception firm.
“Sports Direct has been publicly castigated for its failure to pay warehouse workers the national minimum wage, the majority of whom were sub-contracted through agencies.
“Now HMRC has been cast in an unfavourable light, all of which emphasises the need to both understand the significance of public perception and to keep on top of the employment practices of agencies who provide outsourced workers, particularly where it could have a negative impact on your company’s reputation.”