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Low paid cleaners in City of London declare strike victory
Rob Williams, chair of NSSN, and Socialist Party executive member
The Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) salute the victory of members of the United Voices of the World union after 58 days of indefinite strike action at 100 Wood Street in the City of London.
The main demand of the low-paid cleaners, who are mainly from Latin America, was for the London Living Wage, which was finally conceded after the 43rd strike day. But by that day, four workers had been made redundant by cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning, operating the cleaning contract for property firm CBRE. So one of the main outstanding demands of the then continuing indefinite strike was the reinstatement of the two remaining workers that still reside in the UK.
This has been a heroic struggle of a small group of migrant workers in one of the most affluent areas of one of the richest cities in the world. It has shone a light onto the class and wealth polarisation in modern-day capitalist London.
As the bankers and bond dealers make huge profits, they use offices and toilets cleaned by low-paid workers from every corner of the world, who have been up from the early hours of the morning and who are often also working another job to make ends meet.
The picket line actually meant that at 100 Wood Street at least, they had to walk past what are usually faceless workers!
The dispute has been an inspiration for trade unionists everywhere and has in turn received support all round the UK and internationally. At the typically lively and loud protest on 27th July to mark the 50th strike day, I read out a letter of support from the Athens bus cleaners who themselves had won a victory the previous week, aided by a global solidarity campaign.
The strikers had a rapturous reception at the NSSN annual conference on 2nd July. It is a disgrace that it took another month for Thames and CBRE to settle the dispute but its successful resolution will be celebrated throughout the trade union movement.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 5 August 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.