Around 80 cleaners from the Houses of Parliament gathered on the nearby College Green in pouring rain on Wednesday of last week to announce their intention to ballot for strike action.
The cleaners are represented by the T&G union, which also represents cleaners at Canary Wharf.
Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the T&G, said, “Parliament ought to be ashamed of itself.The wages that the cleaners are paid is an absolute scandal.
“We have been working with the cleaners at the Houses of Commons for six months — and now it’s time for strike action. Before the general election over 200 MPs expressed their support for the campaign, but you can’t pay your bills with expressions of support.”
Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury in Yorkshire, said, “It’s disgusting that people are not paid sick pay, and 12 days holiday a year is scandalous.
“The low level of pay is terrible — if £5 an hour is a stretch in the north of England, it must be impossible in London.”
One of the cleaners, Evrard Ouale, said he worked four hours a day overtime because the wages were so low.
He said, “When we strike, who will clean. You wouldn’t let people into your home if it wasn’t clean, so why do they think so little of our work?
“We need to earn a decent wage, so that we can have decent lives. We want to be able to send our children to university.
“We don’t want to be trapped with generation after generation of us just being cleaners.
“We are all up for industrial action because nothing has happened since we started campaigning in February.
“Our shifts start at 4am and we are kept busy all day cleaning up paper and other mess left by the MPs.”
But while the parliament campaign is moving forwards, there is a danger of losing momentum with the campaign for the cleaners at Canary Wharf.
This got off to a great start with sustained recruitment, demonstrations and publicity stunts. But there are some signs that it now seems to have stalled.
It is incredibly important that the campaign is not put to one side.
Cleaners at parliament and at Canary Wharf should be balloted for strike action together.