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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 January 2018

Victory for Hackney school cleaners!

Unite the Union, photo Naomi Byron

Unite the Union, photo Naomi Byron   (Click to enlarge)

A Unite member

Unite members employed by the outsourcing company OCS working in Hackney schools have won a fantastic victory. The cleaners had voted, by 100%, to take strike action which was due to begin with five days across six schools.

The dispute was in response to an attempt by the employer to move the workers from year-round contracts to 39-week contracts. The impact would have been to push the workers further into poverty through the loss of 13-weeks' pay.

The company had also refused to pay the uprated London Living Wage (LLW) from November 2017.

The campaign won huge support - new members joined specifically to take part in the strike. Support from the teachers' unions was also key - with at least one head teacher confirming that scabs would not be allowed in the school to cover the work of strikers and that the school may even close during the strike days.

Hackney councillors were approached directly, but none offered direct support.

The industry norm has become to move to term-time-only contracts - as with many teaching assistants. However, Unite repeatedly made the point that these workers are on 9.75 an hour, often working early morning and evening shifts.

Nobody wants dirty schools - the workers do a vital job. So why shouldn't they be paid on an all-year-round basis?

If the hourly wage was higher, may be all-year contracts would not be necessary - but the cold hard reality is that in this case, the union was fighting pay cuts aimed at workers on 9.75 an hour, in London. It is relevant that average earnings in Hackney are over 16 an hour.

In the lead up to the strike, OCS announced that they were pulling out of the contract and that the workers would transfer to Kier. Kier then began to engage with Unite, requesting that the strike was called off so that talks could take place.

Unite, correctly, refused - making clear that the action would only be called off when an acceptable offer was made.

Finally, days before strike action, the employers offered the new LLW of 10.20 to be paid from February 2018 and all staff on year-round contracts to remain on them.

This is a significant win - unions have found it hard to win preservation of year-round contracts. The pay increase also represents a win for these low-paid staff. Unite will now be taking the campaign beyond the six schools that were involved in the strike - but is also prepared for action should Kier not abide by the agreement.

Unite will also be using this as yet another argument against outsourcing. Kier management claimed that by paying the LLW, their profits would be hit. Their statement alone should sign the death warrant for privatisation.

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In The Socialist 31 January 2018:


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NHS: use the 3 February protests as a launch pad for a mass movement

NHS we're ready to fight

Northern health campaigns conference discusses the fightback

8,000 strong petition opposes closure of Sheffield health services

Labour NHS rally reveals horrors but offers no way forward

Leicester NHS protest


Opinion

Trump as Nixon: urgent questions about press freedom and the state

Capitalism v cricket


Women's liberation

For workplace trade union organisation against sexual harassment

Presidents Club sexism scandal: what you thought

100 years since women won the vote


Socialist Party workplace news

Victory for Hackney school cleaners!

Local government workers' reps reject 2% pay offer

University workers' walkout for decent pensions

Merseyrail protest

Supermarket's slash jobs - union fightback needed

Cammell Lairds strikers demand improved pay and conditions


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Capitalists fear for their system at Davos

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Your newspaper fights with you: help fund it with May Day greetings

Bristol anti-cuts campaigners debate alternatives to the cuts


International socialist news and analysis

Stop the war on the Kurds

Sudan: Free Mohamed Satti

Vienna: 50,000 march against racism and austerity


 

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Related links:

Hackney:

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triangleVictory: how school strike beat 'academy' privatisers

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triangleEast London Socialist Party: 'Made in Dagenham' Ford women workers' pay strike 50 years on

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Pay:

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Unions:

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London:

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Outsourcing:

triangleMay elections: a chance to fight attacks on health and social care

Living wage:

triangleMcDonald's strikers: "We demand a living wage and decent conditions"

Low-paid:

triangleGender pay gap figures show need for trade union action

Councillors:

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