St Georges Hospital: cleaners fight for living wage
South London Anticapitalists (SLAN) joined a lively picket line of cleaners and supporters at St Georges Hospital in Tooting London on Friday 25 May. Stuart King reports.
The cleaners are employed by Ocean Facilities Services Ltd, the company to which St George’s outsources its “non-clinical” services like cleaning. This company pays the minimum wage of £6.08 an hour and the IWW has been organising the cleaners in a fight for a living wage.
The cleaners are demanding:
1) That they be treated with dignity and respect and receive a Living Wage of £8.30 an hour instead of their current poverty wage of £6.08 an hour.
2) That St George’s and Ocean Contract Cleaning, stop threatening them with redundancy, reduced working hours and the intensification of their working day with no extra pay.
3) That Ocean provide industry standard equipment so the cleaners are protected against burns from industrial chemicals.
4) That they be allowed union representation.
Ocean, claims it has no money to pay the living wage or provide industry standard equipment. However, out of the £14,503,000 it pays annually in wages £1,327,000 goes to 10 directors, whilst the highest paid director takes over £500,000. The directors’ salaries have increased by over 158% over the last 7 years! Meanwhile, Ocean’s 1,891 other staff, many of whom are cleaners, receive an average of just £7,669 per year which has increased 0% in real terms in recent years.
Disgracefully although UNISON only has one cleaner in the section they have sole negotiating rights, have done nothing to raise pay and have in fact colluded with management against the cleaners in struggle and the IWW. When the campaign by the IWW cleaners finally started panicking the management and offers of increasing pay were made UNISON officials had the cheek to claim the credit.
At the very same time they denounced other branches of UNISON who offered support for the living wage struggle at St Georges as “not appropriate and unwelcome”. Nevertheless London UNISON members turned up in support last Friday.
Management, as a result of the militant pickets have already promised to introduce the living wage from 1 August but at the same time are demanding a cut in hours for the cleaners. The IWW cleaners are quite rightly rejecting this fraud.
The new NHS reform act will open the NHS to further privatisation and more struggles of this kind. Everyone should support the struggle of the cleaners for the London living wage.
For more information go to: http://iww.org.uk/londoncleaners