Migrant workers in London: We are not the dirt we clean

New unions are championing London's invisible workforce.

Proletarian writers

Proletarian writers

United Voices of the World (UVW) is a union, seemingly run on a shoestring, that has established a track record championing the largely migrant workers who endure appalling pay and conditions as they go about cleaning some of London’s most prestigious properties. It is currently organising cleaners at two such sites: Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a big company at the heart of the financial district, and the Ministry of Justice HQ.

LHH works the usual outsourcing scam, entrusting the cleaning of its headquarters to an outside contractor (in this case City Central Cleaning and Support Services), hoping thereby to distance itself from any responsibility for the welfare of the people actually cleaning up their crap.

Cleaners there have now voted to strike in order to secure the London living wage of £10.20 an hour, braving unlawful threats of dismissal. LHH, whose cleaners are currently paid the minimum wage of £7.50, this year made profits of £2m.

Meanwhile, over at the Ministry of (In)justice, cuts to the cleaning force have resulted in a situation where just two dozen cleaners are expected to clean all 14 floors of the massive building, amounting to 51,000 square feet. And this all-migrant work force is expected to do all this on the minimum wage and under the most demeaning conditions, with not even separate changing rooms for women and men.

Now the workers are set to be balloted for strike action if their demands (for the London living wage and for the same sick pay and annual leave terms enjoyed by civil servants) are not met. (See UVW website for this and other campaigns)