Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/416/4737
Angry Commons cleaners fight back
THEY WORK at the House of Commons, but they earn only £5.20 an hour, receive no sick pay, no pension and poor holiday entitlement. TASFAANEN GEBRU, a Commons cleaner who was on strike on 9 November, told the socialist why the cleaners are fighting back.
"WE'RE ANGRY about our pay. We get paid a very small amount which is not adequate for the living expenses we have in London. We cannot live on the wages from one job on 40 hours a week. Some of us work 80 hours a week or more to survive.
"This is supposed to be one of Britain's most respected buildings but some of us working here are not getting any respect. We feel we deserve what we're demanding and striking for - which is £6.70 an hour and sick pay, more holidays and the right to join a pension scheme.
"Lots of MPs have supported us but some of the top civil servants in the Commons who are in charge of finances refuse to meet our demands. The MPs represent millions of people - they should use their power to overcome the obstruction of the civil servants who are refusing to negotiate with us.
"We would ask other trade unionists to ask for us to have proper treatment and be given a living wage - not the £5 an hour we are on at present, which is worth not much more than £3 in reality with London prices.
"We've won new members to the union. I had got involved with the trade union before this action. Now, most of the people I work with are involved - certainly all the cleaners are now members of the union.
"We're also striking for more holidays. At the moment we only get 20 days' holiday a year plus bank holidays. £6.70 wouldn't mean we are living comfortably but we could work less hours and not have to do different jobs. We could get time to have with our family and friends.
"If management don't make concessions we're prepared to take strike action again. Whatever they do to us, we're ready to go to the last to win."
Low pay conference
THE NATIONAL Union of Journalists is holding a national activists conference on low pay. It looks like the turnout will be even higher than last year. This is because there have been a number of disputes, strikes and protests all over the country, especially against the low pay culture in local journalism.
At the local Trinity Mirror-owned newspaper in Coventry, trainees have to pay £4,000 for the "privilege" of a training course. Once they have become "professionals", they earn as little as £14,000 a year. This is why these workers took indefinite strike action over the summer.
The pay conference will bring together activists from all over the country. It will help to carry on pursuing the course towards national pay structures decided at last year's NUJ conference. NUJ activists increasingly demand that the union campaigns for a minimum wage of £26,000, something the NEC have refused to support so far.
Socialist Party members within the NUJ will carry on building support for this demand.
Meeting at: NUJ offices, Headland House 308-312 Gray's Inn Road London WC1
In The Socialist 17 November 2005: