Cleaners strike for dignity

Submitted by Matthew on 27 March, 2013 - 10:43

Cleaning workers employed by the contractor Mitie at the Barbican Centre in London struck on Thursday 21 March.

They were demanding a pay increase to bring them in line with the London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour. Their current wage is £6.19 an hour.

They also want an end to the bullying and harassment they face from managers.

Strikers maintained a lively presence from 5.30am, the time the first cleaning shift begins, despite freezing cold conditions, and held a lunchtime rally that was addressed by Mitie contractors from other sectors, including London Underground.

The Barbican cleaners’ union, the Industrial Workers of Great Britain, is also organising struggles at financial multinational Shroeders, Canary Wharf law firm Clifford Chance, and St. George’s Hospital in Tooting.

On London Underground, cleaning workers in the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) have gone into dispute with cleaning contractor ISS over a variety of issues, including the possible introduction of biometric booking-on for staff. They have instructed their union to prepare a ballot for industrial action. Cleaners employed by ISS at King’s Cross and other depots operated by the East Coast train company will strike on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 March to win living wages, improvements to sick pay, and the same free travel privileges that directly-employed transport workers have access to.

Cleaners employed by Churchill on Arriva Trains Wales are also preparing to strike. They earn poverty wages while Churchill has made £7 million profit in the last five years, and its top director has enjoyed 18% pay increases since 2008. The RMT is also running a political campaign to pressure Arriva Trains to bring cleaning work back in-house.

At the University of London, a rank-and-file election slate led by migrant cleaning, catering, and security workers is still waiting to hear the outcome of election results to the branch committee of the University of London Unison branch. The incumbent branch leadership had been obstructive to the workers’ self-organised “3 Cosas” campaign for pensions, sick pay and holidays.

Activists believe the branch leadership has colluded with regional Unison officials to prevent a rank-and-file victory.

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