Socialist Worker

King's Cross pickets demand a living wage and respect at work

Issue No. 2328

East Coast cleaners demand a living wage (Pic: Socialist Worker)

East Coast cleaners demand a living wage (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Train Cleaners working for ISS struck on Friday and Saturday of last week. Some 80 cleaners joined lively pickets at King's Cross station in central London.

The cleaners work on East Coast trains and are members of the RMT union. Management and police tried to move them away from the entrance, saying it was private property.

But a group of cleaners surrounded them, angrily arguing, “We clean this private property!” Workers held homemade placards reading “ISS—International Slavery Service” and chanted “ISS—Mafia”.

On Friday’s picket the cleaners said they did not want to give their names, “because we are not stars, this is all of our voices together”.

One worker explained, “ISS took over 12 years ago. There’s been no pay rise in the last 11 years other than minimum wage increases. There’s no sick pay, no London weighting and no pension fund. In 21st century London £6.19 an hour is outrageous.

“We don’t even get a travel allowance, so many cleaners have to pay the equivalent of an hour’s pay to get to work. For overtime hours, it’s just flat rate pay. On top of all that we were warned that if we joined unions, people would be sacked.”

The worker added, “Because most cleaners are not from Britain, often people don’t know their employment rights. And they treat staff really badly. On shift, cleaners are told we can’t stand anywhere in the station to wait for the trains we clean to come in.

“They want cleaners to be invisible, constantly trying to move them away out of sight. They don’t even give people water. But the strike has been really solid, all the way up the East Coast line. Cleaners have had enough of this treatment.”

They are set to meet this week to discuss further action. Cleaners working for Carlisle and Churchill also struck on Friday and Saturday of last week.

Towering protest

Some 50 cleaners staged a protest outside the Tower of London on Saturday of last week. They work at the tourist attraction.

Alberto Durango, branch secretary in the cleaners’ IWGB union, said, “We want the London Living Wage. Workers don’t have any rights here. It’s a very stressful environment, not fit for human beings.”

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Tue 6 Nov 2012, 17:54 GMT
Issue No. 2328
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