Civil servants set up food bank for their office cleaners

An emergency food bank has been set up in the Whitehall offices of a government department after cleaners and other support staff became the victims of a payroll blunder by one of Britain’s biggest outsourcing companies.

An email was sent to workers at Greg Clark’s business, energy and industrial strategy department on Thursday asking them to donate food at four drop-off points set up in the ministry.

The email, seen by The Sunday Times, said the request followed problems with the department’s new facility services contractor, ISS World.

The problems meant that “every single payday since they took over the contract on March 1, our staff have not been paid, paid incorrect amounts, unexplained deductions, etc.

“This has resulted in cleaners unable to travel to work as they have no money for bus fares, a member unable to give their wife transport money to take their sick son to the GP, forcing her to walk for 1.5 hours and others facing eviction proceedings. The situation has become unbearable for them.”

The email, which was written by a trade union official, added: “We have called for crisis talks with [department] senior management, after repeated assurances have been reneged on . . . Please donate whatever you can urgently.”

Reacting to the appearance of a food bank at the department, Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: “It is absolutely shocking that our members are being forced to use food banks because of ISS’s mismanagement of the contract. This underlines why all contracted-out services in . . . government departments must be brought back in-house as a matter of urgency.”

The department said last night it was in “daily contact” with ISS, and promised that “any additional costs incurred by staff due to the error” would be reimbursed. It said it was contacting every contractor to “ensure any further errors not yet identified are resolved within the same day”.

ISS World did not respond to requests for comment.

Source: Sunday Times, paywall