by Caroline Colebrook
THE TRANSPORT and General Workers’ Union is fighting to improve the wages and conditions of office cleaners employed by major banks in London at Canary Wharf and at the giant Deutsche Bank in the City of London.
The union announced last Friday that it is stepping up its campaign for justice for the cleaners in Canary Wharf and that, unless rapid progress is made in resolving the Wharf cleaners’ grievances, it will ballot its members for strike action.
Senior industrial organiser for the TGWU Paul Davies said: “Our members at the Wharf have had enough. They’ve had enough of working for some of the wealthiest companies in the world for low pay and of their managers refusing to meet with their union.
“Each and every cleaning contractor at Canary Wharf, and their clients the banks, should be working with the cleaners’ union on a way forward. Some of the more enlightened contractors and some of the more socially aware clients are working with the union to improve the pay and other conditions of employment of cleaners.
“But others are hiding their heads in the sand and failing to respect their cleaners’ demand for justice.
“In those buildings at the Wharf where there is still no constructive dialogue we will be planning industrial action.
“Regretfully, unless we can see some significant progress on the part of the banks and the contractors in the next seven days, we will proceed towards a series of strategic strikes in key buildings across the Wharf.”
The TGWU’s Justice for Cleaners campaign represents cleaners in Reuters, the Financial Services Authority, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, HSBC, Lehman’s, Credit Suisse, 1 Canada Square, the Bank of America, McGraw Hill, and Clifford Chance. They are fighting for a living wage, sick pay, improved holidays, a pension and recognition for their union.
Meanwhile, a few miles away in the City of London, cleaners being paid £6 an hour to clean the London offices of the giant Deutsche Bank are urging the bank’s top bosses to help them get a fair deal at work.
The cleaners hand-delivered a letter last Tuesday to the bank’s head of operations in Britain, Aidan Brady, asking Deutsche Bank to tell the Lancaster office cleaning company to pay them a long-promised bonus and start talks with their union, the TGWU.
“Deutsche Bank’s top executive is now paid €11.9 million a year, and the company has a reputation for paying big bonuses to many staff,” said Paul Davies.
“Our cleaners’ expectations are rather more modest, but they are the basic demands of employees in any civilised country. They are only asking for £6.70p an hour plus a sick pay scheme.
“They expect their trade union to be able to negotiate for them with their employers, and they expect their employers to keep their promises. At a meeting before Christmas, Lancaster promised our cleaners a quarterly bonus and this should have been paid last week. They are still waiting for it. We believe a little encouragement from Deutsche Bank could remedy this situation immediately. “That’s why we are asking Deutsche Bank to tell Lancaster to treat their workers properly. After all, Deutsche Bank boasts that it is ‘a European global powerhouse dedicated to excellence, constantly challenging the status quo to deliver superior solutions’. Sorting out Lancaster Cleaners shouldn’t pose too big a problem for the bank.”