Glasgow janitors, after an industrial action campaign lasting almost two years, have won an inspiring victory. The Unison members have secured pay rises, a guarantee of one janitor per school and extra jobs have been created. Below we print the statement from Glasgow City Unison on the outcome of the strike, which proves yet again the potential for workers to win if determined action in taken alongside a leadership prepared to fight.
UNISON STATEMENT – Glasgow school janitors win pay rise, maintain one janitor/ one school and secure jobs
After a dispute lasting twenty months janitors in Glasgow’s primary, nursery and ASL schools have won a 6% pay rise which will see all janitors annual pay increase by £1,184 from today (14 August).
The deal maintains one janitor/one school, which was to go under proposals from the previous Labour Council Administration designed to resolve the dispute. Relief janitors will now be offered a school on a permanent basis. The current twelve job vacancies in the city will be filled and five additional relief posts will be created within an overall staffing level of 213. Within this 213, there will be 35 new Senior Janitors who will be a working charge-hands. This new post will be Grade 4 and will deliver a staged £4,000 annual pay rise over the next two years.
The deal sees all 196 janitors in the city moved from Grade 2 to Grade 3 for taking on a range of handyperson tasks that have always been acceptable to the members. The janitors will also provide emergency sickness cover for school crossing patrol workers but limited to not more than four days per year. They will also provide initial sickness and some holiday cover for other janitors in their neighbourhood but again this will be time specific and closely monitored by the trade union as the change is rolled out. A relief janitor pool of five workers will be retained to support these new arrangements. There will be a reduction in the working week from 41.5 hours to 40 hours and janitors will also now be allowed to take holidays during term-time. Voluntary overtime remains available. The deal includes a £520 working context payment; the initial reason for the dispute.
In January 2016, UNISON members began a boycott of all heavy lifting, outside and dirty duties. In March 2016, strike action began and the janitors took 67 strike days in blocks of 3 days, 5 days and then 10 days. Mass meetings of all members took place on a regular basis with the janitors debating and voting on all key aspects of strategy and tactics. The UNISON Glasgow branch’s strike fund and donations from across the trade union movement supported the action in what became a high profile dispute in the city and beyond.
The janitors engaged in numerous loud and colourful protests outside the city chambers, the Cordia HQ and in Glasgow city centre. They highlighted their case on social media under the title #Justice4Jannies, organised a “mop, brushes and pail” march outside the city chambers, targeted the local wards of key council politicians with American Wild West “Wanted” leaflets and cowboy hats, secured the support of Groundskeeper Willie during some protests (the Scottish jannie from the Simpsons TV show) and were joined by several school “mummies” at a lobby outside the city chambers on Halloween!
They attended and spoke at the STUC conference in April 2016, led the Glasgow May Day march, demonstrated outside the Scottish Parliament on two occasions and organised a two day, 25 mile fundraising raising walk from the Kelpies sculptures to Glasgow. The janitors also won the support of parents councils across the city, particularly after January 2017 when the Labour Council Administration offered a wage rise but wanted to pay for it by cutting jobs though a clustering approach where there would be fewer janitors than school buildings. At this stage parents began to organise protests. This was an important point in the dispute coming during the Scottish local council election campaign. UNISON is grateful for the involvement of the parents’ councils.
In late March 2017, the Labour Council Administration withdrew their clustering proposal and we entered the election campaign with both the SNP and Green Party committed to one janitor / one school and to resolving the pay dispute. The janitors welcomed these commitments and are the basis on which the dispute has now been settled with the new SNP Council Administration.
UNISON has seen a 20% increase in membership since the dispute started. We now have three stewards in the group, up from one in January 2016.
The dispute shows that workers can win if they are determined and organised, supported by their local branch and the wider the trade union, escalate strike action when necessary, involve the wider community and build pressure on elected politicians at key points.
We will draw on the lessons of the dispute for future campaigns, particularly within Cordia where there remain numerous unfair pay arrangements affecting many members.
Well done the Glasgow school janitors. You won #Justice4Jannies.
Published by Socialist Party Scotland