Socialist Worker

Reports round-up: Government cleaners win Covid-19 sick pay battle

Issue No. 2713

Ministry of Justice cleaners striking in 2018

Ministry of Justice cleaners striking in 2018 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A campaign by the United Voices of the World (UVW) union has won at the Ministry of Justice, (MOJ) after bosses announced that its cleaners would receive full pay if self-isolating or ill.

The major victory also means cleaners will receive backpay for days spent self-isolating or ill from 1 April.

They were previously only paid the statutory sick pay of £95.85 a week.

“We are proud to have finally forced the MOJ to pay full sick pay,” said Molly de Dios Fisher, UVW organiser.

“This would not have happened without the near two-year struggle of our members to have taken repeated strike action.

“While this new scheme is welcome the MOJ has not committed to paying full sick pay for non-civid sick leave and we will continue to fight for this, along with the living wage,” she said.

Outsourced cleaners at the government department have been fighting to be brought back in house and to receive the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour.

MOJ capitulation comes after cleaner Emanuel Gomes fell ill and died after his shift in May.

“Emanuel went to work feeling sick—but he knew that if he didn’t work, he would get to the end of the month and wouldn’t have enough money,” his brother Leo said.

The callous treatment of cleaners who work in the heart of government shows the contempt that the Tories have for ordinary people.

Workers should supportthe continued fight for MOJ workplace justice.

Transport unions unite

Transport unions in London are organising together to push back against the Tories’ drive to undermine travel in the capital.

The RMT, Unite, TSSA and Aslef transport workers’ unions are set to speak at a “Transport for London funding rally” this Wednesday.

They are demanding no cuts to services, full restoration of government funding and no jobs cuts or attacks on workers’ conditions.

“The slump in passenger numbers and suspension of fares during the height of the lockdown has sucked £600 million a month from its finances which pushed it to the brink of collapse,” said the group.

“TFL workers should not have to pay for the coronavirus crisis”. It’s a welcome step that transport workers are united.

They should ready themselves for strikes and occupations together.

Rolling back unequal pay

Supermarket workers at Asda are getting ready for the latest phase of their long-running equal pay legal case.

Some 35,000 shop floor workers, who are predominantly women, are fighting for an equal pay settlement against the retail giant.

Their case, due to be heard in the Supreme Court this week, argues that warehouse distribution workers have received higher wages.

Asda bosses claim the job roles aren’t similar enough to be compared, but an employment tribunal ruled in favour of the workers four years ago.

The stakes are high. Workers have battled for

13 years so far, and could stand to receive several years back pay if they win.

Legal firm Leigh Day is also representing workers from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and Co-op in similar cases. If all supermarkets lose their cases they could be shelling out around £8 billion to workers.

Even if the judges rule in favour of the workers, they have a long battle ahead.

They and their GMB union will have to show that roles in supermarket and distribution roles are of equal value.

Workers will also have to prove that sexism was the reason why they were paid less.

Asda bosses should cough up—and low paid women workers should be prepared to fight until they get a cheque in their hands.

Harlow demonstration

Activists in Harlow, Essex, gathered last Friday to demand the cancellation of all rent arrears incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mick Patrick from Defend Council Housing said, “Coronavirus has highlighted forty years of underinvestment and speculation that have made the housing crisis much worse.

“We need to build a better future now. It won’t happen unless we make it happen.”

Protesters drew attention to the 227 private renters that have fallen into arrears in the last four months and called for a massive programme of council homes.

Journalists begin ballot

Journalists at Midlands newspapers are balloting to strike over a raft of attacks from management.

The NUJ union members at Bullivant Media Limited weren’t paid their full wages in March, April and May—and also weren’t put on the government’s furlough scheme.

They are also fighting potential compulsory redundancies and divisive working practices.

Many of the journalists earn close to the statutory minimum wage and were finally paid what they were owed on 1 July.

The union said that many workers have been “on the breadline” with some forced to use food banks to get by.

Workers say they aren’t sure they’ll be getting their full wages in the future.

And they haven’t received workplace-wide pay rises for over a decade.

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