UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 2 May 2011

London Citizens - a decade of tireless campaigning against poverty pay

Today London Citizens - a broad based community campaign for a living wage - will be holding a 10th anniversary rally in London.

Founded at a time when UNISON itself launched a living wage campaign by holding two successful national marches against low pay, Citizens has gone from strength to strength, not only securing impressive concessions from major companies in the capital, but helping to create a political consensus that the national minimum wage is here to stay:

UNISON national officer Deborah Littman reflects on the union's support for the campaign from day one: "What UNISON has done along with London Citizens is to come up with a carefully calculated figure for the minimum amount of money that people need to keep a family in health and properly housed and fed, as well as being able to take part in society.

"We identified the sectors we wanted to work on, the first of which was health, where private contract cleaning staff were on minimum wage with no pensions or sick pay.

"We got privately contracted cleaners from poor hospitals in east London together and turned them into a living-wage team, campaigning in the hospital, lobbying strategic health authorities and negotiating with contractors. It took us three years and ultimately led to a strike in one of the hospitals.

"Our second target was Canary Wharf and the City, whose initial reaction was to say that they were not responsible for private contractors. We managed to convince the big banks they had that responsibility and that their reputation rested on it. A lot of them have adopted it and were able to see that it works in terms of profitability. We've managed to make great strides because in each case we've held the concept that organisations can't contract out their responsibility. Widespread community support for the workers involved has meant that we were able to hold these sectors accountable and shows that this is not just a minority interest of a few workers, [it involves] an entire community."