Socialist Worker

Migrant workers wage fight against low pay in London

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2617

Lively scenes on the picket lines outside the Ministry of Justice

Lively scenes on the picket lines outside the Ministry of Justice (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Two groups of mainly migrant workers are waging a fight against low pay in London.

Outsourced workers at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Kensington and Chelsea council struck for a second day on Wednesday.

A lively, noisy picket of some 40 people was held outside the council on Wednesday morning.

Tory councillor Catherine Faulks and a senior council officer came down to negotiate with workers on the picket line. They had promised to do so the previous day after cleaners and their supporters protested at a council meeting.

The United Voices of the World (UVW) members are fighting for demands including the London Living Wage of £10.20 an hour and decent sick pay. Mirna Holguin, a cleaner at the council, said, “I work 11 hours every day to earn a bit more, because what they pay is not enough,

“We need to earn more to be able to live with dignity.”

At the picket line people asked the director if he felt responsible. “Our responsibility is through a service contract, not an employment contract,” he said. “We are responsible, but we have to change the service contract.”

Council bosses had said that they would bring cleaners in-house, leading the UVW union to declare partial victory.  Since then the council has backed down. But Petros Elia from UVW told Socialist Worker, “The council released a new statement saying they would have to wait to review the service contract.”

“Workers voices are being heard. We just have to get the bosses to commit to the workers’ demands.”

Cut 

The demands are similar across the two workplaces because outsourcing is a zero-sum game—cut wages and conditions to the minimum. And bosses can deny knowledge because technically someone else is doing the cutting for them.

Cleaner Fatima Djalo’s salary has hardly changed since she started working at the MoJ in 2009. She told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had about an extra pound in those nine years. There’s been no change to our conditions.

“But every six months there’s change at the MoJ. There’s new furniture, new floors. And every time we ask OCS for a raise they say the MoJ sets the rates of pay in the service contract it agrees with them.

“We earn about £1,000 a month. That’s just enough for a single room in a house. I can’t support my family on that money. At the end of the month I have £20, that’s nothing.

“The Ministry of Justice should give justice to us immigrants.”

The current round of strikes was due to end on Thursday—with more scheduled for September.


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