Cleaners at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (Conel) have won a dramatic victory over wages.
Faced with a cut that would rob them of nearly a quarter of their annual wage, they began to organise in the GMB union.
Protests forced bosses to promise to take cleaners from the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour to the London Living Wage of £8.80.
“It’s good news for us,” cleaner Tina Sarpons told Socialist Worker. “And we could never have achieved this without the union.”
There were just two or three GMB members in the college in the summer. Most of the cleaners are women of African origin who had never been in a union before.
But they have built a thriving branch of more than 20 members across the college workforce.
“There’s a real buzz in the college,” said Jenny Sutton of the Conel UCU lecturers’ union.
“Workers have seen that being in a union makes a difference.
“Now people are signing up from catering, security, reception and the cleaners.”
A group of cleaners addressed a triumphant meeting of Tottenham Unite the Resistance on Thursday of last week (pictured).
But the dispute is not over.
The Living Wage is set to come into effect in the summer. Workers are fighting to bring at least some of it forward.
Yet it shows even the worst-paid workers can win victories.
Lecturers vote to strike
Lecturers at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London have voted overwhelmingly to strike over observations.
The UCU union members backed strikes by 88 percent on a 42 percent turnout.
Lecturers were set to strike for an hour at lunchtime on Wednesday of this week. They plan a further walkout in January.