On Saturday 2 February, around 70 cleaners held an angry and inspiring protest at the Barbican Centre in London.
Cleaners at the City of London Corporation’s prestigious arts centre are demanding pay increases to £8.55 an hour (the “London Living Wage”) from their current wage of £6.19.
One female worker who was pregnant was forced to work with dangerous chemicals and carry out unsuitable tasks. She very nearly lost her baby. The manager responsible for this still works at the Barbican and working practices remain the same. Mitie is refusing to recognise and negotiate with the Industrial Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), which organises many of the cleaners at the centre.
The cleaners’ demands go far beyond a Living Wage; they want to be treated with dignity. Placards said: “We are not the dirt we clean”.
Cleaners from the Barbican were joined by many other cleaners from workplaces across London, giving their solidarity. Workers from different industries also came to support this important struggle.
The cleaners are now balloting for strikes and intend to fight until they win.
Cleaners at the University of London also rallied as part of their “3 Cosas” (“3 Causes”) campaign to win sick pay, holiday, and pensions equality with their directly-employed colleagues.
The campaign also involves catering, security, and maintenance workers employed by Balfour Beatty Workplace and Aramark.
• More: iwgb.org.uk
Liverpool jobs fight
By Ollie Moore
Around 10% of the workforce at the Royal Hospital in Liverpool could be at risk of losing their jobs, as bosses announce a five-year plan to shed 600 posts.
Hospital unions have said they believe the cuts plan is part of a project to fund investment in a new site as part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme. The site, which was greenlighted by the government in June 2012, will cost £450 million.
Local NHS bosses have denied a connection between the proposed job cuts and the new investment, but a Unison official said: “I cover most NHS trusts in the Merseyside area and I'm not aware of any trust that’s looking to shed up to 600 posts.”
Private sector workers in the area also face a battle for jobs, as bosses at glass firm Pilkington look to cut 150 jobs across sites in the north west. They are also looking to make cuts to workers’ pension schemes.
The GMB union said the moves “could well lead to industrial action”.
Hospital workers burn dismissal notices
By a health worker
Strikers from Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury Hospitals burnt their dismissal notices during a protest outside their Hospital Trust Board meeting last week.
Medical secretaries, receptionists, and other admin workers from Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, who face pay cuts of up to £2,800, struck for five days following the Trust’s decision to issue dismissal and reengagement notices to hundreds of workers.
The Trust has stated they are prepared to look at alternative plans with trade unions, but in the Board meeting their lead negotiator made it clear they would not negotiate on the level of cuts and that the “savings” must come from the current group of workers. Suggestions from strikers that money was being wasted paying consultants Ernst and Young £3 million to cut their pay were met with blank faces.
A meeting of strikers at the end of the strike endorsed the idea that the dispute should be escalated with an indicative ballot of all union members in the hospital.
Agency workers' fight continues
Agency workers employed by the Trainpeople agency on London Underground, without work since 16 January, have voted unanimously for strike action to win their jobs back.
Trainpeople workers will use the ballot mandate to continue their campaign of direct action, including demonstrations and pickets at Tube stations and LUL and Transport for London offices.
The RMT is also organising action against Sodexho, which runs staff canteens on the network. Sodexho is victimising RMT rep Petrit Mehaj after he led a successful campaign for union recognition amongst canteen workers.
Workers and supporters will rally outside Sodexho headquarters (1 Southampton Row, WC1B 5HA) at 8am on 7 February.
Foxconn workers win union vote
By Ira Berkovic
Workers at Foxconn, China’s largest private-sector employer, have won the right to elect their representatives.
Foxconn, which manufacturers electronic goods for the likes of Nokia and Apple, is easing its control of its in-house “union” and will allow employees to elect shop-floor representatives.
The move is the first of its type at a large firm in China, and is the result of substantial pressure from Foxconn workers who have been involved in strikes, protests, and even riots over the past few months.