The recent wave of cleaners’ militancy in London is continuing, winning a new victory at Senate House in Bloomsbury.
The win follows successes at Heron Tower near Liverpool Street and Guildhall (where workers have been organised by the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World).
Cleaners employed by Balfour Beatty at Senate House took wildcat strike action on the morning of 1 September and were bolstered by a hastily-arranged solidarity demonstration by other trade unionists and activists. They were striking against the non-payment of wages, a scandal which has seen some workers, who are members of the public sector union Unison, go eight months without their full pay. The dispute has exposed the University of London’s commitment “in principle” to pay the London Living Wage as unreliable at best; its outsourcing of services to companies like Balfour Beatty (which is also busy attempting to undermine collective bargaining in the construction industry) mean that it always has an excuse for the mistreatment of the workers who make its facilities function.
It took less than four hours of strike action for Balfour Beatty bosses to cave, providing written commitments that back-pay would be paid and that there would be no victimisation of workers involved in the strike.
Unison reps from London universities attended cleaners’ picket lines to support them.