DEFRA cleaners demonstrate in London’s Smith Square this afternoon

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, PCS,

pcsThe PCS is today supporting a protest by low paid staff who feed and clean up after ministers and senior officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Many of the cleaners and security guards are on minimum wage, while their colleagues who work on the same contract at a different government department are paid more.

Last year, after pressure from the union, the Department for Energy and Climate Change agreed to ensure the living wage was paid to cleaning, security and buildings management staff employed by Interserve.

Defra is refusing to do the same, even though it shares the contract with DECC. It is also refusing to pay or demand the living wage for catering staff employed by contractor Eurest.

Many other government departments now either insist its private contractors pay the living wage, or have pledged to do so.

The prime minister told Parliament in January: “I am in favour of the living wage. Those organisations that can pay the living wage should pay the living wage.”

The living wage is currently £7.85 an hour outside London and £9.15 an hour in the capital.

Cleaners have left a series of letters for ministers and senior civil servants, outlining the hardship they suffer and asking for face to face meetings.

Former environment secretary Owen Paterson said in July last year he had asked the permanent secretary to conduct a review, and his successor Liz Truss said in November that Defra “was looking into the problem to understand what options exist”.

The protest meeting will be held in Smith Square at 4pm.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It is an absolute scandal that staff who work long and unsocial hours cleaning up after ministers and senior officials are on poverty pay.

“The government should commit immediately to insisting that its private contractors all pay the living wage.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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