Delight for Glasgow janitors as 20-month strike ends in victory

After a near two-year battle for a pay rise – led by Unison and dubbed locally as #Justice4Jannies – janitors finally won a six per cent hike on the eve of the new school year

One of the longest-running recent labour disputes in the UK has come to an end with a victory for workers after a 20-month-long battle.

Janitors in Glasgow have earned a six per cent pay rise after the dispute between them and the council was finally settled on the eve of the new school year.

Unison had been at a stalemate with Glasgow City Council’s previous Scottish Labour administration in the long-running battle over pay, working conditions and job cuts that would have seen less than one janitor per school in the region.

But the end to the dispute comes 100 days after the SNP took over the council in May. The party had pledged as part of their election promise to find an agreement before the new school year begins.

The dispute shows that workers can win if they are determined and organised

The conclusion could now see more public-sector workers follow in the footsteps of the janitors with Unison vowing to learn from the 20-month wrangle, citing ‘numerous unfair pay arrangements affecting many members’.

Brian Smith, branch secretary for Glasgow Unison, said: “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.”

The eleventh-hour agreement will see a six per cent pay rise in Glasgow’s primary, nursery and ASL schools, resulting in an increase of £1,184 with immediate effect.

The package also secures one janitor for every school while relief janitors will be offered to schools on a permanent basis. This will result in a rising staffing level from 196 janitors up to 213 while the working week will reduce from 41.5 hours-a-week to 40 hours.

The staff boost will also see 35 new senior janitors who will be a working charge-hands and receive a £4,000 rise in pay over the next two years.

By reaching the agreement, a two-week strike which was planned to hit as soon as the new term began has now been averted.

SNP Promise

As part of the industrial action, Unison members began boycotting all heavy lifting, outside jobs and dirty duties in January 2016 when Cordia, the council-owned firm that provide services in the public sector, disputed a claim from janitors that they should receive £500 for carrying out the work.

This was followed with strike action two months later with janitors taking 67 days’ worth of action as well as protesting outside the Glasgow city chambers and the headquarters of Cordia.

Today’s agreement means we start the new school year with a deal that works for the janitors, the Council and Glasgow’s schools.

The SNP, as well as the Green Party, committed to securing one janitor for every school as well as resolving the pay issue before Scottish children went back to school.

The party took over from Labour in May’s local election and delivered on their promise to bring the long-running dispute to an end in the nick of time.

Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “I am pleased we have been able to bring about a positive end to this dispute, which has been one of longest disputes in Glasgow City Council in recent decades.  This dispute was allowed to drag on far too long by the previous administration.

“We promised parents and pupils this would be a priority for the City Government. Today’s agreement means we start the new school year with a deal that works for the janitors, the Council and Glasgow’s schools.

“I am confident that this delivers a fair and sustainable justice for the jannies, alongside service reform without being unfair to other staff groups.

“I am grateful to the workforce, trade unions and officers who have worked hard to bring about this resolution with their efforts across the summer; along with our City Treasurer Allan Gow and City Convener for Workforce Feargal Dalton.”

Main pic credit: Unison Glasgow