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07.08.2020 / News /

A seat at the table is only as powerful as the threat of collective action

Last week, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) cleaners, security guards and porters voted overwhelmingly in favour of trade union recognition with nearly 70% of workers turning out to vote. 

You might be wondering what recognition means, and why it is important. Union recognition at MoJ, which was won through a statutory ballot administered by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), guarantees our members a seat at the negotiating table.

But for UVW recognition is only one tiny tool in a much larger toolbox of tactics, and a tool that we rarely even use.

That’s because a seat at the negotiating table is only as effective as our members’ willingness to take meaningful collective action, and so we focus on building workers’ confidence, consciousness and power, without which negotiations would be begging sessions. 

At MoJ, members have been fighting for equality of pay and terms and conditions with civil servants for over two years against hostile, anti-union bosses. 

Despite their contractor OCS trying to transfer workplace leaders to other sites and blocking attendance of our members at workplace meetings, workers fought and won a small pay rise, full pay sick pay, and succeeded in forcing the bosses to recognise UVW and, for the first time, sit down and negotiate with them face to face. 

Fatima Djalo, a cleaner at MoJ, said: “We have won, we have won, we have won. We beat them. We beat their union busting and won our rights. I’m delirious with happiness with this result. Now let’s go for full victory!”

Union recognition is only one win in a much larger battle to end outsourcing at the MoJ, but it is an important one.*

As Percy Yunganina, a longtime UVW activist and committee member explains, “It is the first time in history a non-TUC affiliated union has won recognition in Whitehall and a huge step for precarious and underpaid workers across the UK. Determined organising, in the face of scandalous union busting, will have even the most marginalised workers walking through the manager’s office door. Power to the workers and UVW!” 

Click here to read more about the fight at the MoJ. And if you would like to help UVW keep winning at work, consider joining the Solidarity Network or donating to our crowdfunder to protect our right to strike. 

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*UVW is bringing a legal claim against the MoJ to argue in court that outsourcing the entirely BAME and migrant facilities staff on inferior pay rates and terms and conditions to civil servants amounts to race discrimination – institutional racism – prohibited by the Equality Act and the MoJ’s Public Sector Equality Duty.

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