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Thursday, 17 October

Migrant Cleaners Strike At Justice - And Other Locations

Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall

Migrant cleaners are to strike simultaneously at the Ministry of Justice and Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall on August 7-9. Meanwhile, self-employed electricians are forming their own union branch.

Strikes have also been planned to affect 13 sites and thousands of users across London including Guys Hospital, The Shard, Kensington Town Hall and Ministry of Justice HQ.

The strikes, pickets and protests are the most ambitious and widespread industrial action launched by small gig economy union - United Voices of the World Trade Union (UVW)   - to date

The Union says that it has managed to make workers thought to be 'unorganisable' strike for sick pay, living wage and equality

Cleaners will strike at the Ministry HQ and Borough Town Hall on Tuesday 7, Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 of August. There will also be 'solidarity' protests at Health Care America, where cleaners across eight private hospitals and patient outreach centres will strike at the end of August.

The cleaners are mostly Portugese and Spanish speaking Latin Americans and Africans from Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome and Principe.

The Ministry of Justice cleaners work under the OCS contract at three MoJ sites including the Passport office at Petit France. The strike ballot and vote there saw a 100% turn out and a 100% vote in favour of industrial action, acording to the Union.

UVW members employed by Compass for Health Care America clean eight hospitals and care centres including The Shard, Guys Cancer Hospital and Harley Street Clinic. Health Care America is the biggest private health care company in the world. UVW members clean Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall. The cleaners there work for global services giant Amey.

 

Grievances

Currently, workers involved in all three disputes share three common grievances and have three common demands:

An occupational sick pay scheme

Amey, OCS and Compass do not have an occupational sick pay scheme. This means workers rely on Statutory Sick Pay. SSP is unpaid for the first three days of illness. Thereafter workers will receive £18 per day from the fourth day of sickness onwards. This means workers often come to work when sick in order to meet their London living costs.

Parity of terms and conditions with directly employed staff

Equality between subcontracted and directly employed staff in terms of holiday entitlements, hours and overtime pay.

Payment of the London Living Wage with guaranteed annual increments

The London Living Wage is currently £10.20ph – a stark contrast to the government's National Minimum Wage which is just £7.83ph.

UVW, an independent union formed in 2014 and not affiliated to the TUC. The Union claims that a 'win' at the MoJ could lead to a 25% wage increase for over 1,000 outsourced staff across the recently unified MoJ contract, previously run by 12 separate contractors. In 2011, Westminster, and Hammersmith and Fulhman councils joined RBKC in a ‘Tri-borough’ agreement to share one single outsourcing service until 2023. UVW believe that a 'win' at RBKC could lead to Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham also becoming living wage councils.

 

Comments from workers - provided by UVW and not verified by ThisWeekinFM

Mercedes, a striking cleaner at Health Care America: "We are not just demanding fair pay, we need basic vaccinations, including Hepatitis B and Tetanus, which are being denied to us even though we regularly come in direct contact with bodily fluids including blood. These are luxury hospitals, why can’t we get what we need?"

Mauricio, a cleaner for RBKC: "It is really hard to survive in London, you have to think about what you can and can’t buy, which bill to pay, it’s very difficult. I wanted to live near my work but it is impossible for me. I live in a room in an apartment with another family, that is how it is here."

Luis, a Ministry of Justice worker: "Even though we are paid minimum wage, the company still tries to make us work harder and harder, doing more tasks and cleaning more and the company doesn’t send anyone to replace the workers who are sick or absent. It is because they don’t even listen to us or treat us with respect that we have to strike. It is for this that we call this place the Ministry of Injustice."

 

Self-Employed Electricians Launch IWGB Branch

The beginning of the month of July saw The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) launch the Electrical Workers Branch, which will campaign for self-employed electricians in London in the first instance.

Inaugural open meeting of the branch is scheduled for July 26.

While electricians with employee status and on PAYE have traditionally been unionised, the 85,000 that work on a self-employed basis throughout the UK have largely gone unrepresented..

The branch's objective will be to campaign to improve pay and working conditions, tackle issues such as umbrella companies, long working hours and pay-rates.

The IWGB is also threatening to 'fight back against the de-professionalisation and de-skilling of the sector, including the introduction of 16-week training courses, which result in a rise in under-qualified workers doing electrical work'.

Self-employed electricians can be found on most sites that require electricians - from major infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail, to football stadiums.

Electrician and founding member of the IWGB Electrical Workers Branch Sam McDouall said: “We wanted a union that would fight for the interests of self-employed electricians and wasn't riddled with bureaucracy, so we turned to the IWGB. We need to fight back against the abuse and de-skilling which is becoming increasingly common in our sector, and through the IWGB we will do just that.”

 

Branches

The Electrical Workers Branch will be the eighth branch of the IWGB. The other branches are the Cleaners and Facilities Branch, University of London Branch, Foster Care Workers Branch (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Foster Care Workers Branch (Scotland), United Private Hire Drivers, Couriers and Logistics Branch, and Security Officers and Receptionists Branch.

Picture: Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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