Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Parliament cleaners stage second strike

THE CLEANING staff of the Houses of Parliament staged their second strike on Wednesday in a long running dispute over pay after the parliamentary authorities refused to meet with the contractors and the cleaners’ union, the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
MPs and members of the House of Lords have been pressuring the parliamentary authorities to meet with the TGWU since July, when Parliament saw its first ever strike by cleaners.
Top civil servant Peter Grant Peterkin, Serjeant at Arms, who earns more than £100,000 a year in salary and benefits, and lives in a Whitehall mansion worth nearly £2 million, is refusing to meet to consider the cleaners’ claim for a living wage.
Currently the 140 cleaners are paid just £5.20 an hour; they receive no sick pay, no pension and minimum holidays.
The Serjeant at Arms says he is refusing to meet the union representatives because of recent questions posed in the House of Commons over the cleaners’ pay and conditions.
He told the TGWU: “Given the exchanges on the floor of the House earlier this week, the proposed tripartite meeting would probably achieve nothing.”
TGWU deputy general secretary Jack Dromey said: “In today’s democracy it seems inconceivable that unelected, privileged civil servants are blocking attempts by parliamentarians to get their cleaners a living wage.
“We have been overwhelmed with support by MPs and Lords but the stubborn refusal of the parliamentary authorities to act has led our members to decide they have no alternative but to mount picket lines outside Parliament once more.”