Monday 20 June: Outsourced cleaners, porters, post room, and security staff working at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have voted unanimously in favour of strike action over poverty pay amidst the cost of living crisis. In April, workers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) launched a campaign to bring an end to a discriminatory pay gap that would pay the majority-migrant and BAME workers below the lowest grade of the university-wide pay scale. This follows only months after a damning report revealing ingrained structural racism across the prestigious university, at academic staff and student level.
The IWGB has sent a pre-action protocol letter to LSHTM for a claim of union blacklisting after the university suspended four workers for their involvement in a peaceful protest in late April as part of the campaign. Three of these workers have now been given written disciplinary warnings but the fourth worker and two others are facing further disciplinary action over trade union activities. Although the IWGB represents the majority of this workforce, LSHTM is refusing to recognise or negotiate with the union, instead victimising its majority-BAME and migrant workforce.
Last August, outsourced staff from the IWGB campaigned and won an end to outsourcing at LSHTM to be completed by August 2022, but LSHTM initially refused to bring pay in line with the university-wide pay scale. Following April’s protest, LSHTM has committed to move staff onto grade 1 of the university pay scale when they come in-house, but this is still lower than all other staff at the university.
Cleaners and security staff are demanding that they are placed on a minimum of pay grade 3 (starting at £14.38/hr), the same grade as many maintenance staff with similar responsibilities.
You can support these workers by donating to their strike hardship fund.
Betty Leon, Cleaner at LSHTM and Vice-Chair of the Universities Branch (IWGB), says: “The cost of living right now is rising every day. Water, electricity, transport and food have gone up in price. I am a mother and I am raising two children and I need to be able to support them. We are demanding pay that is equal to colleagues with similar responsibilities and allows us and our families to live with dignity. I voted to strike because LSHTM has not taken us into account. They do not listen to our demands. They will not recognise our union. They refuse to meet with us and they refuse to meet with our union. We will strike unless LSHTM agrees to pay us fairly and treat us with respect."
Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary (IWGB), says: “Amidst the cost of living crisis, it is disgraceful to see a leading research university continue its attempts to victimise its workforce for standing up for their rights and campaigning for dignified pay. LSHTM is paying this majority-migrant and BAME workforce well below all other staff at the university and it is refusing to negotiate or recognise the IWGB, the union of choice for the majority of its workers. Cleaners, porters, post room, and security staff play a vital role in the functioning of this institution, but with inflation at 11%, they cannot continue to live on poverty wages. The unanimous strike ballot shows that these workers are united in their demands for fair pay. Though LSHTM has tried to divide these workers with its campaign of victimisation, they remain unbowed. If LSHTM continues to ignore its workers, they will strike and fight for the equality and respect they deserve.”
Interviews with workers are available upon request.
For more information, please contact:
James Vail, Head of Communications