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BALKAN folk music was the soundtrack as striking agency workers from two government departments picketed their workplaces today in their fight for parity of pay and conditions with directly employed counterparts.
Violinists entertained the early morning picket line formed of outsourced receptionists, security guards and cleaners, along with well-wishers showing solidarity, outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
The pickets received support from passers-by, activists from other trade unions and members of the Labour front bench.
After beginning at about 5.30am, United Voices of the World (UVW) members from the MoJ picket line marched to join members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union on the BEIS picket line for a joint rally.
The shadow cabinet turned out in force, with John McDonnell, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Richard Burgon, Dan Carden, Angela Rayner, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Clive Lewis present.
The workers, who are employed by the Aramark, Engie and OCS agencies, voted unanimously for strike action, are paid £9 an hour and are demanding the Living Wage of £10.55.
They also have no entitlement to sick pay for their first three days of absence, and receive one week less in annual leave than people doing the same jobs who are employed directly by the government.
Fatima Djalo, who has been cleaning the MoJ headquarters for over a decade, said: “Our wages have only increased by £1 since 2009.
“Many of us are working two or more jobs just to survive, with no time for anything but work.
“This place is supposed to be the home of justice in Britain, but what is just about paying workers poverty wages and denying them the basics of a dignified working life?”
The PCS and UVW unions are also campaigning for the workers’ jobs to be brought back in-house.
Speaking to the pickets, shadow justice minister Mr Burgon said he felt honoured to be alongside workers who were standing up to low wages, casual contracts and insecure working hours.
“I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with yourselves and all workers on strike today for a proper living wage,” he said.
“You will win this struggle, not just for workers here but for workers across all government departments.”
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