Workers organised with the United Voices of the World union have been busy in London recently, fighting back against outsourcing and poverty pay everywhere from Chanel and the Hilton to the Trocadero and University of Greenwich.
Victory at Chanel
The month started with cleaners at Chanel winning the London Living Wage. After Carmen, one of the lead organisers for her Latin American colleagues, was suspended by the outsourcing company on preposterous charges in a transparent attempt to shut down the dispute, Chanel offered an initial pay rise of 10% to £9.10 an hour following the continued threat of a strike. Recognising this was still well below the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour, cleaners continued to fight and moved to ballot for strike action, organising a mass protest at Chanel's store on New Bond Street. Consequently, Chanel have now confirmed they will pay the full London Living Wage to cleaners across their stores.
Occupying the Hilton
As the victory at Chanel meant the mass picket was called off, UVW organised further actions against other workplaces in the West End. They marched to the Hilton Doubletrees Hotel at Marble Arch, where a member is owed hundreds of pounds after being paid illegally at well below the minimum wage. Members danced in the foyer and demanded to see both the hotel manager and the manager of the contract cleaning firm. Police came and tried to get union and management to talk.
Cleaners to strike for London Living Wage at London’s Trocadero
Cleaners who work at the famous entertainment venue Trocadero and the Criterion building in Piccadilly Circus that overlooks Trocadero and where annual rent costs £11m per year have decided enough is enough and are set to down tools and strike until they are paid the London Living Wage.
Outsourced to Doc cleaning they are currently paid poverty wages a whopping £2.24 under the current London Living Wage. Cleaners are also demanding an occupational sick pay scheme to ensure they are still paid when they take a sick day.
The cleaners have also previously received threats and suffered cuts to their hours in response to having asked for contracts of employment. These buildings are owned by Criterion Capital that owns and manages a modest £2 billion property portfolio across London and South East of England.
Security guards to strike against outsourcing at St. George’s University
UVW members working as security guards at St. George's University — a medical school in Tooting, South London and constituent college of the University of London — have voted in an indicative ballot to strike until St. George's terminates its contract with contractor Noonan and brings them in-house. UVW will now move to ballot them.
Bringing them in-house would end the two-tier workforce the security have been subjected to for years, which has seen them severely overworked, disrespected and under-recognised. In addition, their terms and conditions remain on the pernicious statutory minimums, whilst university staff enjoy generous holiday allowances, pensions and sick pay schemes.
With a £3.1 million increase in St. George's annual income last year, and a surplus increase to £3.5 million, any costs involved with in-housing their security guards can be easily absorbed.
The two-tier workforces created by outsourcing have been successfully challenged, beginning with UVW's historic victory at the London School of Economics in 2017 which saw the termination of a £5 million a year contract with Noonan, bringing some 250 cleaners in-house after the then-largest cleaners’ strike in British history. Since then, SOAS, King's, Birkbeck and Goldsmith's (except the security) have all followed suit, with Senate House and UCL expected to follow next.
Outsourced university café workers demand London Living Wage
Café workers at Greenwich University outsourced to Baxter Storey have joined UVW en masse and voted to strike for the London Living Wage to lift them off the poverty pay they currently receive.
Edited and reposted from UVW website and Facebook page.