Cleaners at some of Britain's leading banks and financial institutions are to vote on strike action after a long-running campaign to make bosses improve working conditions and pay them a living wage.
The cleaners' union T&G announced the ballot - which will begin on Monday - at a rally today (Friday) in London's Canary Wharf, where the invisible army of 850 cleaners help to maintain some of the world's costliest real estate while being paid a pittance.
The ballot follows the failure of cleaning contractors and their big money clients to make progress on improving the poor employment conditions of the cleaners.
The T&G, which represents over 600 of the Wharf's estimated 850 cleaners, is fighting for a living wage and equal pay, improved sick and holiday pay for the cleaners and recognition for their union to protect their interests in Canary Wharf. The union is working closely with London Citizens to establish a unified zone across the Wharf where pay and employment benefits of the cleaners will be equalised.
Announcing the next stages of the campaign, T&G senior industrial organiser Paul Davies said: "This is the most prestigious real estate in Europe with some of the wealthiest tenants in the world. But behind these glittering facades, the hard-working cleaners - most of them immigrants from Africa, South America and Eastern Europe - are treated miserably. The clients and contractors based here should be ashamed.
"Employers at Canary Wharf should be leading the way in the treatment of their cleaners but they will not work with us to do so. We can make progress through dialogue with the more enlightened clients and contractors. But we are clear that for those who refuse to meet to their ethical responsibilities to this vulnerable workforce, we will ballot our members on industrial action".
The T&G is seeking meetings with contractors and clients across Canary Wharf. From next week (Monday, April 10th, 2006) the process of balloting members for strategic industrial action across the Wharf will begin.
ISS, the contract cleaning company employed by investment bank Morgan Stanley, will be the first company where members are balloted as this is the company least willing to work with the T&G to address the problems faced by its cleaners.
Paul Davies added: "Cleaners are among the worst treated workers in our society but here at the Wharf the employers have taken this to another level with cleaners receiving different wages from building to building for doing the same job. It cannot be fair, for instance, that cleaners employed at HSBC and Barclays receive sick pay when they are ill but the cleaners working just hundreds of yards away at Morgan Stanley do not receive a single penny in sick pay when they are ill. And it certainly cannot be fair that Canary Wharf's cleaners will not receive one penny's worth of pension from their employer no matter how long they work for them".
Edited by libcom.org news from www.tgwu.org.uk