City of London Guildhall Cleaners support Occupy London

 

City of London Guildhall Cleaners have declared support for Occupy London – part of the global movement for social and economic justice – as it prepares for the High Court today to defend its tented occupation at St Paul’s Churchyard just by the London Stock Exchange, against the legal action brought by the City of London Corporation.

Today sees the Guildhall Cleaners, demonstrating for the Living Wage and against mistreatment of cleaning staff, coming together with Occupy London for reciprocal solidarity pickets.

At 10am Occupy London supporters will join the Guildhall Cleaners at their picket at the City of London Guildhall (Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HH). At 2pm, the Guildhall cleaners will join Occupy London outside the hearing of their case at the Royal Courts of Justice (Strand, London WC2A 2LL), which is due to be held at 12 midday at the earliest in front of Mr Justice Lindblom in court 25. A full schedule for the day is detailed below

The Guildhall cleaners work at the City of London Corporation’s offices, for which they are paid the minimum wage. [1] [2] This year the City of London Corporation refused to pay the cleaners a London Living Wage, in contravention of the policy of the Greater London Authority Group (comprising the GLA, Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police Service, among others). [3] While they have been directly employed by Sodexo since September 1st, the cleaners have been at the Guildhall since before the change of contractor.

Occupy London supporter Richard Paton commented: “It is no surprise that, as well as attempting to stifle legitimate protest, the City of London Corporation denies its workers the dignity to adequately provide for themselves and their families. While Stuart Fraser, outgoing Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, and his colleagues lobby hard for the UK financial services sector, the City of London’s behaviour at the Guildhall shows a complete disregard and lack of respect for its workers. This duplicitous behaviour is symptomatic of the what has caused the economic crisis, where the few benefit and the many are now suffering. We urge the Corporation that the time for change is now – you are either part of the solution, or you are the problem.”

William Taylor, Reclaim the City supporter added: “’The Guildhall cleaners are a canary in the gloomy mineshaft they’re sending us down – leading to low wages for most, and massive pay awards for senior bankers. They won’t even pay their own cleaners a Living Wage, but lobby for tax cuts for investment banks, while breezily over-egging their economic contribution.”

Intimidation and call for a Living Wage for Guildhall Cleaners
On Monday 19 December at 12 noon, an internal investigation will take place at the Guildhall into an incident of alleged physical intimidation of a female cleaner and union rep by a male manager. Both manager and cleaning staff are directly employed by Sodexo, but have been attached to the Guildhall since before the contract was transferred in September.

Isobel, IWW union representative for the Guildhall cleaners to whom the incident relates, said: “The City of London Corporation is a medieval institution, and the way they treat their employees is medieval – its from the same epoch. This is  London?  For me it’s a big deception, London. When I came here from Madrid, I thought of the big city, of modernity – what I found was this medieval treatment of the City’s workers. The bad treatment is heavier for me because I am a union rep.  When my colleagues have a problem, I go with them to defend their interest. The manager gives me heavier jobs, to punish me.  All that happened to me is because I defend our human rights.  I question: I don’t have human rights?  In the 21st century?  This is the London “modernity”.

Speaking of the incident to be investigated, she said; ‘I was taken into the toilets.  The female supervisor went upstairs, shutting the toilet door behind her. I was alone with the other supervisor. He pushed me against the wall and shouted in my face. I don’t remember what he was shouting – I was so shocked. For me, the worst thing is the complicity of the Guildhall. A public body permitting this sort of abuse – why?  Five women have made complaints about this man in the past. I don’t understand why the Guildhall don’t take action against Sodexo, against this man. If the Guildhall isn’t complicit, why have they never done something about it? In a borough council, the abuse is particularly shocking. I understand Sodexo might want to exploit us. But for the Guildhall – how is it possible? It’s a public body.

“I came to London in January this year – in Spain, I was a social worker.  I’ve been surprised that cleaners are so badly treated in companies in London – I think it’s because people are immigrants. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, work from 6 to 8, and get home at 9.  For that, I receive only £12.16.  And then I get pushed around by managers.  What world is this?  This is London?  This is the City of London?  This is the Guildhall? ‘Once when the tube was delayed, I called to let them know I might be late.  The manager said; ‘If you are one minute past 6, don’t bother coming in!’

“I have repetitive stress injury in my arm – my doctor gave me a note confirming this. Then my manager wanted me to sign authorisation so they could get my medical information from my GP.  Why? That’s my private information.

“The thing that happened to me isn’t important – the important thing is these cleaners are getting bad pay, long hours, little sleep – and to top it all we get pushed around.”

Schedule for Monday 19 December for Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas

  • 9am – Solidarity gathering for supporters of Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas – Supporters of Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas are invited to join together at Occupy London’s occupation at St Paul’s Churchyard, near the London Stock Exchange to prepare for the days events. All are welcome to come and show support, bring placards, banners and gusto.
  • 10am – Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas join solidarity picket with City of London Guildhall Cleaners – Representatives of Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas will be join the picket at the City of London Guildhall (Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HH) alongside City of London Guildhall Cleaners
  • 11am – General Assembly at the Royal Courts of Justice – From 11am, supporters of Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas will gather together at the Royal Courts of Justice (Strand, London WC2A 2LL). There will be a General Assembly taking place with occupiers and others speakers discussing the coming events of the day, the causes for which Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas are being brought to court, as well as future plans.
  • 12 midday – City of London Corporation vs. Occupy London case – The earliest time for the beginning of Occupy London Stock Exchange’s hearing in the case that the City of London Corporation has brought against them is 12 midday at the Royal Courts of Justice.  The hearing will be held in front of Mr Justice Lindblom in court 25.
  • 2pm – Guildhall Cleaners join Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas at the High Court in solidarity.
  • 2pm – UBS vs. the Bank of Ideas – For the Bank of Ideas, its application for an appeal to have Sun Street Properties’ injunction set aside is due to begin at 12 midday at the Royal Courts of Justice. Lord Justice Lloyd will hear the application in court 72.

Notes
[1] For further information on the Guildhall Cleaners’ Living Wage campaign, see here.
[2] Early Day Motion 2172 – ‘That this House is concerned that the cleaners employed by Sodexo under a contract from the City of London Corporation to clean the City’s prestigious Guildhall are paid below the London Living Wage; and urges the City Corporation to raise the wages of its cleaners to the rate recommended by the Greater London Authority to the London Living Wage of 8.30 per hour.’
[3] The Sustainable City Awards Case Study: Greater London Authority (GLA) Group
http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/79D52E11-FA80-4B96-90D5-3952CCB7A3A2/0/SUS_GLASCAcasestudy_10v2.pdf
[8] City of London Guildhall – directions how to get there: http://www.guildhall.cityoflondon.gov.uk/location.htm
[9] Royal Courts of Justice Queens Bench Division hearing list for Monday 19 December – http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/courts-and-tribunals/courts/hearing-lists/list-queens-bench.htm / Cause list for Monday 19 December – http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/courts-and-tribunals/courts/hearing-lists/list-cause-rcj.htm

 
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