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

"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

"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