Foreign Office staff get kick for ‘bringing contract into disrepute’ by requesting pay rise
HEARTLESS Tory Philip Hammond yesterday defended the redundancies of Foreign Office cleaners who appealed to him to end their poverty pay misery.
Three of the 14 cleaners who wrote to the Foreign Secretary in July asking him for the living wage have been made redundant by contractor Interserve.
The remaining cleaners say they were disciplined by bosses, who claimed they were “bringing the contract into disrepute.”
But Mr Hammond refused to condemn the bosses’ behaviour when quizzed in Parliament over the scandal by shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.
“Given that a basic freedom is the right of any individual to contact us as elected representatives, without fear or favour, will the right honourable gentleman join me in condemning this attempt to intimidate staff for having exercised that right?” Mr Benn asked.
But Mr Hammond refused, saying: “I have confirmation from Interserve that although a review meeting was held, no disciplinary action was taken against any cleaner as a result of their writing that letter.”
And he went further, describing the redundancies as “necessary” and ruling out paying the remaining staff a living wage.
“Redundancies were unfortunately necessary because the Foreign Office is surrendering the old admiralty building as part of the campaign to reduce the estate footprint of government departments and save the taxpayer money,” he said.
Mr Hammond said that Mr Benn should be reassured that the redundancies were “carried out in consultation with the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union.”
But a PCS spokesman said that Interserve rejected its proposal to redeploy the departing workers to the Department for Education.
“Cleaners in government buildings are hideously underpaid by private contractors and bullying and intimidation are rife,” he said.
“Ministers and senior officials have turned a blind eye for far too long.
“If any company is found to have victimised staff for exercising their rights to ask for better pay and working conditions they should be stripped of their contract.”
Asked whether his department would now pay the living wage, Mr Hammond fobbed off Mr Benn by saying staff would benefit from the new minimum wage being introduced on April 1.