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Posted on 3 May 2013 at 12:47 GMT

Manchester: Airport cleaners strike while construction workers protest

Hugh Caffrey

Cleaners at Manchester airport took solid strike action on 3rd May against a drastic worsening of their conditions.

Members of the Unite union mounted ten-hour pickets outside each of the three terminals and got on the local news.

Their employer, Mitie, is trying to halve their current lunchbreak. Cleaners are already working harder than ever before, after 27 redundancies last month were not replaced with new staff.

As one striker said to me, "These people need that break, they're knackered as it is with an hour break, how are they supposed to do that job with only 30 minutes off?" It's not just hours worked either, it's a paid lunchbreak and so a cut in lunchbreak is a cut in paid hours, equating to a loss of 69.50 every month.

On top of that, a 20 attendance bonus which staff could try to win in the past, is being withdrawn. Mitie has a double agenda here.

When it took over the contract from another company, Initial, staff were transferred from Initial to Mitie.

Initial staff were on better terms and conditions and Mitie wants to drive down everyone's pay and conditions, below even where Mitie staff were before! Mitie won the contract by under-cutting Initial, but rumour has it that Mitie now owes the airport 5,000.

That is pennies to multinational companies like Mitie, but are Mitie bosses dipping into the pockets of low-paid cleaners to compensate for their own incompetence? Today's strike action sends a solid signal to Mitie that these cleaners and their union aren't going anywhere, and any further attacks will be met with action.

Construction protest

Meanwhile, across the other side of the city in east Manchester, Unite was protesting at the Manchester City construction site.

The main company on the job, BAM, has been involved in illegal blacklisting of construction workers including many Unite members.

Today's protest featured a giant inflatable rat, symbolising the employers' orchestrated "ratting" on trade unionists to deny workers the democratic right to organise.

While there have been numerous rank and file and Blacklist Support Group protests against blacklisting in the region, backed by many local union activists, this is the first as part of Unite's new "leverage strategy" against blacklisting companies such as CrossRail in London. There will be many more.

Six copies of the Socialist were sold and many workers took our postcard calling for a one-day general strike.

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Related links:

Manchester:

triangleManchester Socialist Party: The fight for a minimum wage that workers can live on

triangleManchester Socialist Party: Tories Out - General Election Now!

trianglePeterloo - fighting for democracy and a better life

triangleManchester: Demo against the Tories

triangleThe Peterloo Massacre 1819: When a fearful ruling class tried to crush working-class political aspirations

Construction:

triangleHull: Construction workers' walkout forces employer to back down

triangleHull construction workers strike against blacklisting

triangleSocialist Party member Janet Gibson advertising NSSN conference at a protest of steel construction workers outside a Siemans factory in Lincoln (click for report)

triangleTen years since Lindsey strike: when militant action stopped the 'race to the bottom'

Airport:

triangleSummer of airline industry strikes against low pay and worsening conditions

triangleScottish airport strikes - fight for better pay and pensions

triangleSupport the Glasgow Airport pay and pensions strike

Strike:

triangleSouth African Airways workers win wage increase after strike action

triangleStrikes: more determined than ever

Cleaners:

triangleCleaners strike over low pay at Haringey secondary school

Unite:

triangleUnite against terrorism, racism, war and austerity

Blacklisting:

triangleTrade union conference to force secret police disclosure

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