IWW cleaners at John Lewis to ballot for industrial action

On Wednesday 14 November 2012, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) announced their intention to ballot IWW unionised John Lewis cleaning staff for industrial action. The outsourced cleaners work at four different John Lewis sites in London and are employed by cleaning contractor Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM). This announcement follows a previous press release on Monday 12 November, in which IWW lodged a fresh pay dispute on behalf the IWW unionised cleaners at John Lewis. Attached campaign press releases can be downloaded at the bottom of this article.

Submitted by IWW Europe on November 14, 2012

Today, Wednesday 14th November, the Industrial Workers of the World union (IWW) [1] have notified cleaning company Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM) of the intention to ballot cleaners at four John Lewis sites for industrial action in the current pay dispute.

IWW notified the company Monday [2] of a pay dispute and invited the company to resolve this by agreeing to the workers objectives by 5pm Tuesday.

ICM were unable to meet this deadline and this has triggered today’s announcement.

IWW National Secretary Frank Syratt said:

“What our members are asking for is not only reasonable and realistic, but is absolutely necessary for them, their families and for the fight against poverty pay. IWW reps will meet with ICM on Friday 16th November with a real hope to resolve this dispute. However, if a resolution cannot be found, we will ballot our members for industrial action”.

In the run up to Christmas and January sales, John Lewis can expect to see profits spike, bringing in millions in revenues. Meanwhile, our members working in their buildings are earning minimum wage of just £6.19 per hour.

Budget cuts have seen their workloads increase, leading to stress, sickness and depression. But with no sick pay, they have to carry on regardless. Meanwhile, poverty pay means home life is a daily struggle.

Following extensive attempts by the workers to improve their situation, their union IWW entered a new pay claim with ICM on 26th October. Clear, realistic and reasonable, not to mention necessary, the pay claim aims at an immediate and backdated increase to £6.72 per hour for cleaners, £8 per hour for supervisors [3], plus a timetable of discussions aimed at securing full London Living Wage of £8.55 [4] and full sick pay.

Contact: south[at]iww.org.uk for more information.

Notes :

1. IWW is an independent industrial union, organising workers in all industries. Please see www.iww.org.uk for more information.

2. For details of the trade dispute, please see the press release of Monday 12th November, which can be found attached to this article, as well as at http://iww.org.uk/node/814 and on Libcom.org at http://libcom.org/blog/iww-cleaners-john-lewis-new-pay-dispute-12112012

3. IWW cleaner members, employed by ICM and working at John Lewis Oxford Street took strike action in August 2012 demanding a Living Wage and an end to hours cuts. They stopped hours cuts and won an increase from £6.08 per hour to £6.72 per hour. Photographs of the previous strike at Oxford Street are available from Peter Marshall at http://www.demotix.com/users/peter-marshall/profile

4. The new London Living Wage rate of £8.55 (£7.45 outside London) was announced last week by Mayor Boris Johnson during Living Wage week hosted by the Living Wage Foundation and KPMG. In the same week it was announced that 5 million workers (1 in 5) in the UK do not earn a Living Wage, the minimum amount necessary to live properly on.

Comments

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on November 14, 2012

Does the IWW have a recognition agreement with ICM/is it seeking one?

Good luck to the cleaners in any case! Keep us updated of any strike days and/or picket locations.

inter_kom

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by inter_kom on November 14, 2012

Clear, realistic and reasonable, not to mention necessary, the pay claim aims at an immediate and backdated increase to £6.72 per hour for cleaners, £8 per hour for supervisors [3], plus a timetable of discussions aimed at securing full London Living Wage of £8.55 [4] and full sick pay.

Am I understanding this correctly that the UK IWW is campaigning for a wage increase for managers? An honest question, not an attempt to "score some points" or sth.

Steven.

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on November 14, 2012

critiquer of political economy

Clear, realistic and reasonable, not to mention necessary, the pay claim aims at an immediate and backdated increase to £6.72 per hour for cleaners, £8 per hour for supervisors [3], plus a timetable of discussions aimed at securing full London Living Wage of £8.55 [4] and full sick pay.

Am I understanding this correctly that the UK IWW is campaigning for a wage increase for managers? An honest question, not an attempt to "score some points" or sth.

it certainly looks like it. Not that there's anything wrong with that necessarily - no workers should be on less than the London living wage at a bare minimum. However, for a radical union I would expect that the real terms increase for cleaners should be higher than the increase for supervisors, as an important thing for workers to aim for is for equalisation of wages as much as possible

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on November 14, 2012

Yeah, that caught my eye, too. FWIW, I do think there's a worthwhile distinction to be made between supervisors and managers. So I know, for example, that the Starbucks Workers Union allows shift supervisors--who get paid an extra twenty cents an hour to basically make the weekly schedule and have no actual managerial power--to join the union. If, on the other hand, the IWW is organising and advocating for folks who have the power to hire and for and/or discipline other workers, that's pretty questionable practice for a radical union, in my opinion.

ocelot

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on November 15, 2012

2 points. 1 - echo Chilli that supervisors not necessarily = managers. 2. Without knowing the current wage differentials its hard to tell if the demand is relative to existing wage (e.g. 5% for all wage levels - which maintains or worsens existing stratification) or an absolute figure, equal for all levels (e.g. £1.75 p/hr for all). There's a difference.

Joseph Kay

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on November 15, 2012

As others have said, often supervisors are just the people who've been there longest (or perhaps those who speak the most English), given a small pay bump and more responsibility without any real power. I think we can give the benefit of the doubt to the IWW that they're not organising managers, unless there's clear evidence to the contrary. Valid point about the percentage or fixed sum rises though. Typically the latter are pursued (even by TUC unions), as they level up pay, giving the greatest percentage rise to the lowest paid workers. Again, I would assume the IWW are well aware of this, as it's pretty much pay dispute 101.

inter_kom

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by inter_kom on November 16, 2012

ocelot

2 points. 1 - echo Chilli that supervisors not necessarily = managers. 2. Without knowing the current wage differentials its hard to tell if the demand is relative to existing wage (e.g. 5% for all wage levels - which maintains or worsens existing stratification) or an absolute figure, equal for all levels (e.g. £1.75 p/hr for all). There's a difference.

Well, that's what I wanted to know actually, maybe I worded my question badly. English isn't my native language so I was wondering are the two words synonyms or not. And if not, what's the difference.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on November 16, 2012

Well, it's probably a judgement call based on each particular workforce. Certainly that's more the case than how senior management decides to classify staff.

Anyway, for me, I'd say managers are defined by an ability to hire and/or fire and to begin and/or participate in disciplinaries. Supervisors, on the other hand, may have the ability to supervise work and possibly even assign tasks (or, like my previous example, Starbucks "shift supervisors" who make the schedule--although it still has to be signed off by a manager) but who lack the managerial power defined by the authority to hire, fire, and discipline.

IWW Europe

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by IWW Europe on November 25, 2012

Just to clarify:

The IWW's constitution includes a clear ban on recruiting or representing any person who has the power to hire and fire -- a ban which we take very seriously.

Therefore, NO, none of the supervisors involved in our campaign has that power, nor do they have any disciplinary powers. As some have pointed out: here, the supervisors are mainly workers who have been on the job for longer than others and usually, who can speak fluent English, and are given some extra responsibilities as shift supervisors.

We are obviously aware that in many cases, the line between managerial and non-managerial staff can be very murky, with many companies where the managers with final authority on hiring/firing/disciplining offload a lot of the disciplinary managerial work onto subordinate supervisors. Thus for example, there are some workplaces, e.g., a lot of food and beverage outlets, where supervisors do have significant disciplinary powers delegated to them by managers and generally tend to side and identify with management rather than workers. In such cases, the IWW would not recruit or represent these supervisors (unless, perhaps, they become clearly conscious that their real interests lie with the rank-and-file workers, they side clearly and unambiguously with the workers, their participation makes tactical sense, and their job description doesn't contravene the constitutional ban on those with hiring/firing powers).

Our view is that the best policy is to leave such evaluations to the good judgement and common sense of our organisers on the ground, who have a full understanding of workplace relations and context.

In the case of the John Lewis cleaning supervisors, their membership is clearly not in contravention of our constitution, they don't have disciplinary powers, and they very clearly side and identify with the rank-and-file workers.

In fact, the supervisors, in this campaign, played a crucial and exemplary role in this campaign. They were among those who had first approached us to organise the campaign. They were the most agitated, radical and militant among the group of workers involved: some of them screaming to call for a strike during committee meetings and among the most uncompromising when facing the bosses in negotiations. They were the social leaders and organisers who played that crucial role of agitation, education, and organisation in the workers' committee. They were the ones who rallied the workers together and lead them in formulating their strategy. It is they who stepped up as representatives of their workmates in facing management during negotiations and hearings.

They very much identify with the rank-and-file cleaners they were organising, and are seen as trusted leading peers by their rank-and-file co-workers.

It is these supervisors who did most of the organising work in what was a completely worker-led campaign. The external IWW union organisers involved in this campaign only played a support and guidance role (ensuring a bridge between the rest of the union and the workers, and consulting on strategy and the bureaucratic/legal aspects of lodging pay disputes etc.) in what was pretty much a completely worker directed campaign.

One of the supervisors who played an important role in organising the campaign and representing her co-workers had nothing to gain personally from participating, and in fact was risking her job for others. This supervisor was already being paid more than the pay levels being demanded in the campaign, yet she worked tirelessly for the campaign, dared to stick her neck out for her lower-paid co-workers, represented them in negotiations, and was among the most militant in the group. When management gave in to the pay increase, she was cheering and jumping for joy on behalf of her co-workers.

Do these workers sound like 'managers'; to you?