November 2019 is witnessing a wave of strikes, disputes, and campaigns involving low-paid workers across the capital.
The United Voices of the World union (UVW) has members involved in several strikes across London — at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington; in Royal Parks; at the University of Greenwich; at Channel 4 and ITV offices; and at the Ministry of Justice.
Flying pickets on 31 October visited multiple workplaces, as well as the offices of the outsourced contractors who employ the workers. The strikes are demanding greater equality with directly-employed staff, including living wages and company sick pay.
Further strikes are due at St. Mary’s on 11-13 November, and at the University of Greenwich on 5 and 11 November. UVW members working as security guards at the University of East London are also balloting for strikes; they were taken into direct employment in April 2019, but have been kept on their old terms and conditions.
On 29 October, outsourced workers in the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain (IWGB) at University College London demonstrated to demand direct employment. The demonstration was well supported by student activists as well as a number of directly-employed UCL workers.
IWGB members at 5 Hertford Street, home to exclusive Mayfair members’ club LouLou’s, are balloting for strikes to win living wages and company sick pay.
The club is nicknamed “Brexit HQ”, due to its billionaire aristocratic owner Robin Birley’s high-profile political and financial support for Ukip, Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson’s Tory party leadership campaign. The ballot closes on 4 November.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) employed by outsourced contractor Interserve at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will strike again on 7, 8, 11, and 12 November, fighting for demands including union recognition, company sick pay, and a reversal of cuts to hours.
On London Underground, outsourced cleaners employed by ABM are balloting for strikes to win staff travel passes, company sick pay, and improved pension entitlements. The ballot, organised by the RMT union, closes on 19 November.
McDonald’s workers in the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) at six London stores will strike on 12 November, demanding a pay increase to £15/hour, an increase in guaranteed hours, and union recognition. This will be the fourth “McStrike” in the UK, following walkouts on 4 September 2017, 1 May 2018, and 4 October 2018.
The overwhelming majority of workers in these disputes are migrants, showing once more how, contrary to the myth that immigration depresses wages, migrant workers’ struggles can in fact drive wages up.
Support the disputes:
• Donate to the UVW strike fund
• Sign the PCS online petition in support of Foreign and Commonwealth Office workers
• Send a letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan in support of London Underground cleaners: