Cleaners at HMRC tax offices in Liverpool and Bootle began a four week strike on Monday—part of a long-running battle for a living wage.
The workers have already struck for 19 days since the dispute began in 2019. But now it has become a fight for justice for those who have been made to keep working during the coronavirus crisis.
The PCS union members are demanding that bosses at outsourcer ISS pay them a living wage of £10 an hour.
They also want full occupational sick pay, the same annual leave as the civil service workers they work alongside, and job security guarantees in the event of office closures.
Now, after being treated as key workers throughout the coronavirus crisis, they are furious they still aren’t paid a living wage.
Striker Maria told Socialist Worker, “We’ve all been coming in during the coronavirus.
“It’s been horrible. Some of us have been able to walk in, but I’ve been having to get the bus every day.”
Despite having to work, the outsourced cleaners still aren’t paid the same as civil service workers they work alongside, and aren’t entitled to the same sick pay either.
Maria said, “They haven’t furloughed anyone. One of the cleaners had to take time off as her son had cancer, but didn’t get any sick pay. She wasn’t entitled to anything as she wasn’t ill.”
So far neither bosses at ISS or HMRC want to put their hands in their pockets to give the lowest paid workers a wage increase.
ISS says HMRC would have to fund the increase. But HMRC says the outsourced workers are ISS’s responsibility.
The PCS is demanding that bosses at HMRC provide the funding. It says that most government departments have provided funding for outsourced workers to receive full pay if they are absent during the coronavirus crisis.
It said this showed HMRC is able to fund a pay rise and that “the decision to block funding is a purely political decision.”
It also pointed to a victory by outsourced workers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last year.
Now strikers hope a four week strike will break the deadlock.
“It’s our longest strike,” said Maria. “But no one hesitated. Everyone was up for it.”
The workers are planning a series of events as part of the month long strike, including an online strike rally on Wednesday of this week.
And they are asking supporters to join in a messaging campaign to HMRC chief executive Jim Harra.
HMRC bosses have relied on cleaners to keep things running during the coronavirus crisis. Every trade unionist should do what they can to support the strikers’ fight.
Go to bit.lyJimHarraMegaphone to send a message to chief executive Jim Harra.
Donate to the strike fund. Account name: PCS Liverpool/Bootle Campaign Account.
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account number: 20415772
Workers at the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre on London’s Southbank protested together last Saturday against job cuts.
Bosses at the Southbank Centre want to make 365 people redundant out of a workforce of 577.
It’s an attempt to make workers pay with their jobs for a decision by bosses to close the centre until April next year. Bosses say they can’t afford to stay open or keep people on, despite a bailout from the government. The workers are members of either the PCS or Unite unions, with 200 members in each
Workers at the National Theatre, which is next to the Southbank Centre, also protested. Some 400 casual workers there also face job losses.
The protest followed a similar action by workers at the nearby Tate Modern gallery the previous week.
Results of a strike ballot by workers at Tate Modern were set to be announced this week.