UNISON members fighting for justice

Glasgow janitors and Birmingham social workers applauded as they tell local government conference of their campaigns

A Glasgow janitor and home care workers from Birmingham received standing ovations at the local government conference today when they described their struggles to protect their jobs, pay and working conditions.

Bill Petrie, one of the Glasgow janitors, told the story of the “Justice4Jannies” campaign which lasted 20 months and resulted in a huge victory for the janitors.

The dispute started in March 2015, when the janitors found out that they were missing out on a “working context and demands payment”, worth £520 a year, which other similar workers were getting.

The janitors lodged a collective grievance over this, but in January 2016 they lost the case. They then started a work-to-rule action, which led to Cordia, the council-owned firm that employed them, trying to reduce the janitor service by 30%.

“Then we decided to escalate to strike action, which lasted for 67 days,” said Mr Petrie.

The janitors launched a campaign of marches, demos and social media, which eventually led to victory.

The deal they won included the introduction of one janitor for each school, creating 22 new posts, plus another five relief janitors; a 6% pay rise; a four-hour cut in weekly working hours; and a return to full council employment for the janitors.

The final icing on the cake came with the announcement that Cordia, would cease to exist from September this year.

Mr Petrie thanked UNISON for supporting the action, saying “without that, all this would not have happened.”

Homecare workers and UNISON reps Mandy Buckley and Millicent Gaile from the West Midlands talked about their current dispute with Birmingham council over redundancies and the imposition of a new rota system.

They say the changes would destroy the quality of the service they provide.

“Our members thought they were unsupported, but now they feel that they have a voice, like the Dagenham strikers or the suffragettes,” said Ms Buckley.

“We’re not fighting for the money – we’re fighting for good quality care.”