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Hackney schools: cleaners won't be treated like dirt

CLEANERS IN SIX Hackney schools, organised in the Unite union, voted unanimously last month to strike against their employer, the privately owned multinational OCS. The company with an annual turnover exceeding £1 billion has dragged its feet in implementing the new rate for the London Living Wage (£10.20 an hour), threatened to impose term-time only contracts and failed to honour Employment Appeal Tribunal rulings on holiday pay. The 42 cleaners are currently set to strike for five consecutive days from 30th January.

To complicate matters OCS looks set to depart the scene in a matter of weeks. The company had received a cleaning sub-contract from Mouchel Babcock, which had a long-term facility management contract at ten Hackney schools, worth some £167 million, awarded under the Building Schools for the Future programme in 2008. Since then the construction giant, Kier, has acquired Mouchel and the cleaners are set to transfer to direct employment by Kier.

Meanwhile, Hackney council has gained accreditation as a London Living Wage (LLW) employer, which means that its contractors should also be paying the LLW as a minimum hourly rate by 1st April at the very latest. The council’s parking contractor APCOA has, however, already paid the £10.20 an hour since the early November announcement of the uprating.

Stoke Newington Labour Party members are backing the cleaners and calling on Hackney mayor Phil Glanville to put maximum pressure on the contractor to meet the workers’ demands. The current dispute vividly illustrates both the legacy of New Labour’s outsourcing of ancillary workers’ jobs and profiteers’ readiness to push back against modest progressive measures such as the LLW.

» Please send messages of support to Unite regional officer Onay Kasab (Onay.Kasab@ unitetheunion.org).

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