What was originally a handful of migrant cleaners demanding a Living Wage at the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) London HQ is now a full-blown dispute led by cleaners, security guards and receptionists — all going on strike this week.
Represented by United Voices of the World and hailing mostly from Latin America, Africa and Asia, they are fighting united for the London Living Wage (LLV) of £10.55 and the same terms of sick pay/annual leave as those enjoyed by civil servants in the MoJ.
Last year, the MoJ cleaners took strike action while security guards and receptionists remained on duty. It wasn’t long before all realised they had to be in this struggle together.
Outsourced to OCS, a private contractor, these colleagues provide vital support services on low wages for a major department of state brimming with affluent lawyers and managers.
They often can’t realistically take time off if sick or injured. Missing a day’s wages – let alone 2, 3 or 4 days – often means choosing between eating and paying bills. Only after the 4th consecutive day of absence are they currently entitled to a miserly £18.41 a day.
It’s therefore no surprise that they’ve voted unanimously to go on strike this Monday evening, then Tuesday and Wednesday, having only received a small wage increase and still waiting for any kind of offer on sick pay or paid leave.
Undoubtedly supported by many salaried staff in the sprawling office towers, this week’s pickets will pile huge pressure on the Justice Minister David Gauke. Unfortunately for David and the government’s austerity agenda, victory for UVW members would threaten a chain reaction in the wider MoJ (a nationwide bastion of low-paid workers) and perhaps even cascade into other state departments.
This strike is being coordinated with similarly outsourced workers at the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) who are members of PCS Union. This will be the first dual strike involving outsourced workers across government departments, as well as the first involving TUC and non-TUC unions.
UVW’s strike officially starts on the evening of Monday 21st January, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Come and find us outside 102 Petty France! The final strike day will be Wednesday 23rd (details to come on social media).
The main strike day will be Tuesday 22nd:
0645 >> MoJ and BEIS workers & supporters arrive at BEIS, 1 Victoria Street and at MoJ, 102 Petty France. Lots of tea, coffee, cakes and music.
0700 – 0830 >> Official pickets start at Clive House and 102 Petty France for the MoJ strike. Chants, music and dancing. Maybe some marching around to keep moving.
0830 – 0930 >> Speakers including strikers, activists, PCS, UVW and other trade union reps, Parliamentarians including John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor), Richard Burgon MP (Shadow Justice Minister), Rebecca Long Bailey MP (Shadow BEIS minister), and maybe Catherine West MP and Caroline Lucas MP. Speakers will switch between picket lines at various points.
0930 – 1030 >> Led by Bulgarian electric violinist buskers, UVW strikers proceed to 1 Victoria Street (main entrance to BEIS) for a solidarity rally, then head back to 102 Petty France and around Parliament Square, continuing past College Green (hopefully with plenty of media present). Then along Great Peter Street, and back onto Victoria Street to end up at the MoJ before midday.
1200 – 1400 >> lunchtime rally and picket at the MoJ.
Be there, in full voice and colour!