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3 May 2013
Manchester: Airport cleaners strike while construction workers protest
Cleaners at Manchester airport took solid strike action on 3rd May against a drastic worsening of their conditions.
Members of the Unite union mounted ten-hour pickets outside each of the three terminals and got on the local news.
Their employer, Mitie, is trying to halve their current lunchbreak. Cleaners are already working harder than ever before, after 27 redundancies last month were not replaced with new staff.
As one striker said to me, "These people need that break, they're knackered as it is with an hour break, how are they supposed to do that job with only 30 minutes off?" It's not just hours worked either, it's a paid lunchbreak and so a cut in lunchbreak is a cut in paid hours, equating to a loss of £69.50 every month.
On top of that, a £20 attendance bonus which staff could try to win in the past, is being withdrawn. Mitie has a double agenda here.
When it took over the contract from another company, Initial, staff were transferred from Initial to Mitie.
Initial staff were on better terms and conditions and Mitie wants to drive down everyone's pay and conditions, below even where Mitie staff were before! Mitie won the contract by under-cutting Initial, but rumour has it that Mitie now owes the airport £5,000.
That is pennies to multinational companies like Mitie, but are Mitie bosses dipping into the pockets of low-paid cleaners to compensate for their own incompetence? Today's strike action sends a solid signal to Mitie that these cleaners and their union aren't going anywhere, and any further attacks will be met with action.
Meanwhile, across the other side of the city in east Manchester, Unite was protesting at the Manchester City construction site.
The main company on the job, BAM, has been involved in illegal blacklisting of construction workers including many Unite members.
Today's protest featured a giant inflatable rat, symbolising the employers' orchestrated "ratting" on trade unionists to deny workers the democratic right to organise.
While there have been numerous rank and file and Blacklist Support Group protests against blacklisting in the region, backed by many local union activists, this is the first as part of Unite's new "leverage strategy" against blacklisting companies such as CrossRail in London. There will be many more.
Six copies of the Socialist were sold and many workers took our postcard calling for a one-day general strike.