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Striking MOJ cleaners demand an end to ‘poverty wages’

SAM TOBIN reports from central London

WORKERS at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) came together today to demand an end to “poverty wages” for outsourced staff.

Civil Service union PCS and the United Voices of the World (UVW) marched from the MoJ to BEIS headquarters in central London to demand all staff in government departments be paid the London living wage of £10.20 an hour.

UVW organiser Shiri Shalmy told the crowd: “We know that change is going to happen on the streets, through strikes, through occupations and through direct actions, led by the workers and with support from comrades in the trade union movement.”

PCS executive committee member Austin Harney said: “It is the workers who are the backbone of the British economy.

“These attacks on workers and the cleaners are an attack on us all.”

Activists were joined by Labour front-bench members — shadow chancellor John McDonnell, shadow justice minister Richard Burgon and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey.

Mr McDonnell said: “We are not willing to stand by and tolerate people being paid less than the London living wage.”

He introduced his colleagues as the future heads of the MoJ and BEIS, saying: “What they will be doing when we get into government is make sure every worker has a living wage and recognition of trade union rights from day one.

“In Parliament or on the picket line, it is the responsibility of Labour MPs to get involved in these types of struggles.”

Ms Long Bailey said she had personally written to Business Secretary Greg Clark, asking him to ensure that “all staff within BEIS receive the London living wage.”

She said: “Outsourcing is not an excuse to undermine workers' conditions and pay.”

Mr Burgon said: “It makes me angry to think that the office of Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke is being cleaned, perhaps while he is in there, by people being paid the legal minimum. That is not just unjust, it is actually immoral.

“Those who remain silent in the face of injustice are siding with the oppressors.”

In nearby Parliament Square, Mr Clark told the Star he was “not aware” of today's protest and could not comment.

Asked if he wished to meet those protesting less than 100 metres away to discuss their demand for an end to “poverty wages,” Mr Clark simply said: “I've got a meeting somewhere else.”

The MoJ has been contacted for comment.

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