Around 25 cleaners and their supporters lobbied Tory mayor Boris Johnson at City Hall in London today to demand that he fulfils his promise to guarantee the London Living Wage of £7.60 an hour to all cleaners working on Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) contracts in the city.
Currently the GLA and TfL award cleaning contracts to private companies and cleaners are paid different rates depending on which company they work for.
Clara Osagiede is one of the cleaners who helped organise the protest. “Boris Johnson earns £78 an hour but some cleaners are only on £6 an hour,” she said. “We have been contributing to the economy but we just get crumbs from the capitalists’ table—we need a bit more.”
The protest was also about cleaners’ conditions in general, as well as pay. Many cleaners are migrant workers and there is a suspicion that the threat of deportation is being used to force them to put up with worse pay and conditions.
“We want sick pay, we want an end to harassment and bullying and we want free travel,” said Clara.
“At Soas our brothers and sisters have been taken away. But their immigration status was not in doubt before they asked for the London Living Wage. Does asking for a living wage make you a criminal?”
Phillip Mambuliya is the chair of the cleaners’ grade in the RMT union’s Finsbury Park branch. “Cleaners are existing, not living,” he said. “London is one of the most expensive cities on the planet. But the resources of this planet belong to every human being. Let us wear a human face.”
Activists in the RMT union and MPS Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell attended the protest.
Jeremy Corbyn attacked the raid on cleaners at Soas, which has led to some cleaners being deported. “We’re seeing an attack on those who put their heads above the parapet,” he said. “Well done to the Soas students who have occupied to defend the cleaners.”
Glenroy Watson is the branch chair of Finsbury Park RMT. “Cleaners face many hazards,” he told Socialist Worker. “They have to clean up blood and vomit on the tube—often with no proper equipment. We need to back their fight for better pay and conditions, whichever company employs them.”