For several years cleaners at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have been outsourced, paid poverty wages and employed on the worst terms and conditions legally possible. But since joining United Voices of the World in 2017, the workers have been fighting back.
They have been demanding an end to poverty wages and atrocious terms and conditions. Going on strike several times in 2018 and 2019 to demand the London Living Wage and the same contractual sick pay and annual leave allowance as the civil servants they spend most of their days tidying up after.
But the battle has been a long one and now in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic these workers have been fighting not just for better pay and conditions, but for their lives.
Dubbed ‘Key Workers’ by the government, these cleaners have been forced to travel on public transport into central London to clean the virtually empty offices of the MoJ headquarters at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.
But not only have their lives been endangered by having to travel to and from work, they have also been endangered whilst at work. Because both the MoJ and its contractor left them without adequate facemasks, adequate PPE and no choice but to work in groups where the possibility of maintaining social distancing was virtually non-existent.
At the height of the pandemic, and despite repeated warnings of potential COVID-19 infections, hazards and clusters, management did nothing to support the workers. Those who had to self-isolate faced financial destitution and in some cases unlawful dismissal.
One cleaner and UVW member, Emanuel Gomes, tragically lost his life. Something which could potentially have been avoided if Emanuel had had access to a sick pay scheme which genuinely allowed him to take time off work when sick. Instead he was forced to come into work when sick because he could not afford to take a sick day.
In the wake of Emanuel’s death the workers regrouped and took a number of direct actions, such as walking off the job over a lack of PPE. They went on to overcome vicious union busting and forced MoJ contractor OCS to recognise UVW. Making UVW the first non-TUC trade union to be recognised in Whitehall!
The workers also went on to successfully force the MoJ to grant them full pay sick pay for Covid related illnesses off the back of a public outcry over their treatment. But this is still far below what the workers deserve. So despite these significant victories their battle continues and they are more determined than ever to go on strike and win a £12 per hour pay rise and equality in sick pay and annual leave with MoJ civil servants.
“I am very very very happy and proud of myself, of the union and of the people that have supported us in this struggle. With this support and unity, we managed to win something they would never have granted us. We are now going to keep fighting until we win the rest. They made that decision because of the pressure, they have no heart, our life means nothing to those people, we are like rubbish to them, we are never valued there”.08.07.2020 – Fatima Djalo a cleaner working at the MoJ headquarters, after their victory of having won full pay sick pay
Trade union recognition making UVW the first non-TUC trade union to be recognised in Whitehall
Full pay sick pay for Covid related illnesses
£12 per hour for our workers
Complete parity in T&Cs with MoJ civil servants