Chants of “low pay—no way” rang out in the City of London financial district today, Thursday, as workers from three disputes took to the streets.
Outsourced hospital cleaners at Barts Health NHS Trust in east London, British Airways cabin crew and Bank of England workers are all striking for higher pay.
Over 200 of the hospital workers and others protested outside their employer Serco’s shareholders’ meeting at JP Morgan bank this morning. Agnes, a Unite union member, told Socialist Worker, “This is where they come to look at their profits.
“We can’t pay rent, we can’t pay the bills, but Serco wants us to do more work for less pay.”
The hospital workers are in the middle of two-week walkout—their third strike in the space of two months.
Serco hopes to ride out the dispute but bosses are coming under pressure. Agnes said, “We know that the hospital is dirty, the agency staff that they’re bringing in aren’t trained to do our jobs properly.”
As their dispute has progressed, there has been more rank and file involvement. As Perry, another Unite union member, said, “People are starting to understand what it means to go on strike.
“They’re letting other people know about the dispute and fundraising for it—and people do give to us.
“We collected £52 at the Tube station before we came here.”
Workers have been joining the union, but a number are still going into work. Solidarity from other trade unionists and campaigners can help boost workers’ confidence and build support within the hospitals.
Unite held a shop stewards meeting at the protest where they decided on further industrial action that is set to be announced.
The growing crowd then marched on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Holborn in central London. They handed in a letter of complaint to the CAA’s Rich Stephenson because British Airways (BA) is using Qatar Airlines planes to scab.
Today was the BA workers’ 57th day of strike—with a further two-week walkout set from 16 August, hitting the busy August bank holiday period. BA striker Amo told Socialist Worker, “There’s no point going back after seven months if there’s no difference.
“BA are trying everything possible not to give in, but there is pressure—there are more delays and cancellations because of industrial action.”
Ben, another BA worker, added, “Because we haven’t got everyone out, going for longer makes it more effective.”
Outside the CAA Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, pledged the union’s full support for all three disputes. “You have my personal support and the support of the Unite national executive,” he said.
The protest then went on to the Bank of England where workers in the maintenance, parlours and security departments are fighting a miserly 1 percent pay offer.
Mercedes Sanchez, Unite regional officer, told Socialist Worker, “If they don’t negotiate we will escalate with other departments. This is just the beginning.”
As workers chanted “Bank of England—bank of shame”, inside bank governor Marc Carney was giving a gloomy report about British capitalism’s future. His message was simple—that workers should pay the price.
These disputes show that there’s a mood to fight around pay—and trade unionists and campaigners need to build solidarity for their fights. But union leaders should escalate from these pay battles and call national action to smash the Tories’ 1 percent public sector pay cap.
The Tories are weak and our side can win.