My life as a Foreign Office cleaner who hasn’t been paid since April
I am proud to work at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but it is hard to love your job when you don’t get paid
Most people don’t get to say they enjoy their job. I can categorically say I do. To work at a government ministry gives you a sense of pride – a place where the UK is represented abroad as a beacon of tolerance and fairness.
Unfortunately these international values do not extend to how I and other staff have been treated in London.
I work for a contractor called Interserve who operate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I have not been paid since the end of April. This is down to a new payment system where the date has been changed and I have been moved from salary to hourly pay.
This means I am missing out on pay going forward as each month has a different amount of days and hours.
To rub salt in the wounds, I’ve found out my colleagues and I are not being paid the London Living Wage for 2019 either.
When you are on low wages, every penny counts –literally.
I now struggle to pay travel to get to work and if my pay issues are not sorted next month, I am worried that I won’t be able to pay my rent.
This is why I joined PCS and because of the company’s complete refusal to engage, I will be going on strike for 5 days this week.
I had never been on strike until last month and the experience has challenged many myths and assumptions I held about unions.
As you can imagine, the pressures of not receiving what I am owed and supporting a family on top, weigh on my mind.
I have gained incredible strength from the solidarity my colleagues have shown me and I hope I have helped them too.
Self-sufficiency and being able to stand on my own two feet has always been important to me. But what I have learnt is a collective of people struggling to get what we are owed and what we deserve is far more powerful.
The majority of staff doing the maintenance the cleaning and other support roles are mainly from other countries and have chosen to make Britain their home.
It is quite the irony then that working for a calamitous contractor like Interserve, inside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, means you don’t get paid properly.
I have one colleague who is going to receive an MBE for his services to the FCO and the military, yet he is also going to be joining me on strike on Monday.
The most difficult thing for me is the fact I now need to use a foodbank which the union branch have kindly set up.
This is not what anyone would expect to see at a government department.
It does dent your pride when you are not able to pay your way and this why I am in a union, to get my colleagues and I, a bigger slice of the cake in the form of a decent wage, to be paid on time and for PCS to be recognised in negotiations at work.
I am not asking for the world. I just want to be respected as a worker in the world, in which, I live.
The Mirror put the staff member's claims to Interserve and this was their response:
Due to the implementation of a new and improved payment system normal pay dates changed from 28 of the month to the 11 of the month.
The new system – TimeGate – enables colleagues to keep track of their pay via an App on their mobile phones and also enables them to receive overtime on the 11 of the month, rather than to have to wait a month to receive overtime.
We started an on-going consultation with colleagues in January to discuss the benefits of TimeGate and how to help them manage the transition. The change was implemented in May 2019.
The spokesman said the claim that the staff member was missing out on pay because each month "has a different amount of days and hours" is incorrect. We accept some months have more working days than others, but we are not moving to an hourly pay for our team in respect of their standard basic pay and colleagues are not missing out. We are paying colleagues for actual days worked, rather than 1/12 of an annual salary.
London Living Wage is being paid and we have already advised our colleagues that the new rate of £10.55 is in the process of being implemented and back dated to the 6 May 2019
We can confirm that colleagues received payment today as planned for May which included their basic pay and any overtime worked in April and May.
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