Underpaid cleaners refuse to stymie action in face of employer’s intimidation
CLEANERS for transnational banking juggernaut JP Morgan Chase were threatened with a legal injunction yesterday unless they promised to ignore all acts of solidarity at an upcoming all-out strike.
Staff at London’s 100 Wood Street — offices for JP Morgan, Schroder and Law Debenture investment banks — are currently balloting for strikes over job losses and living wage demands.
Two cleaners have already been dismissed by subcontractor Thames Cleaning and Support Services Ltd, a grievance their non-TUC affiliated union United Voices of the World (UVW) is hoping to take to a tribunal.
“I feel like they are stepping on and completely disregarding my rights,” said James Vivas, who, the union contends, was sacked without justification.
“How can we be dismissed without any consideration? Where are my rights?”
Thames Cleaning was awarded the contract for 100 Wood Street six weeks ago, but is already planning to cut the staff in half and refusing to pay the London living wage of £9.40 per hour.
A refusal from management to engage with UVW has led the cleaners, some of whom have worked at the address for 15 years, to consider industrial action.
According to UVW, Thames Cleaning originally attempted to seek an injunction against the strike on grounds of alleged non-compliance with statutory procedure.
But realising that no compliance issues were actually on hand, the company threatened to make the strike unlawful unless workers agreed to restrict the picket line to striking workers and one trade union official.
“Trying to make our members choose between a small lawful picket and a large unlawful picket is completely unacceptable,” said UVW general secretary Petros Elia.
“It is not for the employer to decide the size of a picket and it’s a damning indictment of the growing arrogance and ruthlessness of employers, especially in the cleaning sector.
“It’s outrageous that an injunction is even being contemplated against a small group of low-paid workers who have decided that to withdraw their labour is the only means to save their jobs and win them a wage they can live on, especially when they clean the building in which JP Morgan is a tenant.”
Trade unionists promised to keep up the strike despite all intimidation.
JP Morgan did not reply to the Star’s request for comment.