CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Migrant cleaners occupy Ministry of Justice

Cleaners' low pay ignored by 'power and influence' of Government department

10 August, 2018 — By Tom Foot

More protests planned after occupation (Photo: Gordon Roland Pedan)

MIGRANT cleaners occupied the Ministry of Justice building during “unprecedented” strike action.

The United Voices of the World union, which represents migrant workers, said the strike was the first of any group of workers at the MoJ.

Eighteen cleaners, who are employed by OCS which has a contract with the MoJ, walked out on Tuesday for three days. They are calling for a London Living Wage.

“For too long, those with power and influence in the country have ignored the lives and working conditions of those that tidy their desks, sweep their floors and clean their toilets,” said Blair Buchanan, a UVW organiser.

“The strike and occupation today show that major public institutions can no longer hide behind outsourcing companies as an excuse for paying their staff poverty wages.

“Workers are getting organised, making demands and linking up across the country to show cabinet ministers like David Gauke what justice really looks like.”

Cleaners and supporters sit down in protest

Dozens of protesters streamed through the ministry’s entrance doors in the Petty France street blowing horns, blasting music and waving banners demanding fair pay, dignified employment, and parity in benefits with in-house staff.

Some of the striking cleaners also work for Kensington and Chelsea council with contracts with Amey.

Fatima Djalo, 54, said that strike action was a last resort after repeated attempts by the cleaners to raise their concerns with managers fell on deaf ears.

“Our wages only increased by £1 since 2009,” she said. “I hope the strike will help us to win a pay rise and dignified working conditions. Everybody deserves a dignified life.”

Aside from their pay and terms and conditions, the cleaners are also set to strike over the failure of the MoJ to provide them with separate changing rooms for male and female cleaners. This has left many of them feeling uncomfortable and often vulnerable.

The union said the workers were “callously overworked” because of cut backs and with just 24 workers cleaning the entire 14-floor building in Victoria.

Upping the pay of cleaners to a “Living Wage” (LW) would cost £48,000 per year, accord- ing to the union.

The MoJ said it was not its responsibility what its contractors paid the cleaners.

It said: “We strictly enforce LW with our con- tracts. But specific pay and terms are for employers to agree with employees.”

The classic outsourcing argument has been described as “convenient” for the MoJ by the union, which has announced a further day of strikes today (Friday) at the ministry.

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