Cleaners at Société Générale bank protested at the offices opposite the Tower of London after the bank and its contractor Initial Facilities went back on promises to suspend cuts in working hours and pay the London Living wage, and sacked a worker.
Cleaners at Société Générale protested at the offices opposite the Tower of London after the bank and its contractor Initial Facilities went back on promises to suspend cuts in working hours and pay the London Living wage, and sacked a worker.
The protest was called by the IWGB, the Industrial Workers of Great Britain, recently constituted when the IWW London Regional Committee decided to re-launch as the Industrial Workers of the Great Britain, reviving the name of am industrial union originally formed in 1909 and disbanded around 1924. The cleaners were the largest and most active group of the IWW in London, and their vigorous campaigning has had considerable success in getting the London Living wage and better conditions for cleaners, most recently at John Lewis.
I had turned up at Société Générale on 29th August to find a small group of cleaners outside who had called off their protest following a last-minute assurance that the planned cuts in hours had been suspended, and that the London Living Wage would be introduced from 3rd September.
However the IWGB has since been informed that the cuts will be going ahead in a few weeks time, and have yet to get any confirmation that the London Living Wage is actually to be paid. The dispute has been exacerbated by the sacking of one young worker under what the IWGB describe as “the most questionable of circumstances” and they are demanding his immediate reinstatement.
Société Générale had again contacted the workers shortly before the today’s protest saying that they would sort the matter out, but given what had happened previously the IWGB were not willing to call the protest off. But perhaps today’s protest will lead to them coming to an agreement which they will keep.
There were around 25 people taking an active part in today’s protest on the pavement a few yards from Tower Gateway station and in view of the Tower of London, though not all were there the full two hours (and I myself left after around 90 minutes.) As well as many tourists and Olympic visitors going past, the protest was timed to take place when most of those who work for Société Générale were leaving for home. Some of them took the leaflets that the cleaners were handing out, while others declined or ignored them, and a minority made some expression of support. Most of the general public who stopped to find out what was happening were surprised to find that the eighth largest bank in Europe (and France’s second) was treating its cleaners so shabbily despite the huge profits it makes and the extreme salaries of its higher paid staff.
The IWW Britain and Ireland Regional Administration in August reacted to the formation of the IWGB by suspending Chris Ford and Alberto Durango from their positions within the Union with immediate effect pending further investigation. But today’s protest suggests that the IWGB does not need the support of the worldwide IWW union.