Low Pay: Open Letter to John McDonnell

Low Pay: Open Letter to John McDonnell


Dear John,  

I am writing to inform you of my willingness totally support you in your initiative to launch an end to low pay campaign.  

In the very week that your article appeared in Labour Briefing I have been involved in two collective grievances, in my capacity as Unite branch secretary for security workers in the London and Eastern region.  

I forwarded an article on the first example, involving the private contractor ISS facility services to your office and it was published as an article on the LRC website (see link below).


There were examples given of a worker who had not eaten for three days and another who was on medication for depression as a result of the poverty she was suffering.  

Later in the week I was involved in a collective grievance representing security guards at Covent Garden market in Vauxhall, who were working for the contractor OCS. Their rate of pay is £9.19 an hour. This is for nightwork and working on at weekend, operating under the most awful conditions.  

Some of the workers are not yet in a union so petrified are they of losing even these, most awful, badly paid jobs, fearing they will face unemployment and have no income at all.  

This is how employers get away with paying such appalling wages. The firm running Covent Garden market should be ashamed of themselves engaging a contractor whose hourly rate of pay is nowhere near the London living wage of £10.55 an hour, and this is for nightwork. 

These are just two examples in one week, in one union branch, in one region of one union. It is a reflection of the terrible effects of poverty brought about by low pay and low pay as a result of the fear of absolute poverty. Questions that a campaign of the nature you are suggesting, would address.  

So in answer to the question you posed, yes John I for one, am up for helping to organise such a campaign and I am more than willing to throw my weight behind it.  

This is the case with every genuine rank and file union activist I have spoken to about your article. It has even been met with enthusiastic support by some paid officials I have spoken to.  

An inaugural meeting, held at a relatively large venue, would attract huge support if it was organised properly.  

Fringe meetings at trade union conferences and the labour party conference itself would receive enthusiastic support.  

There is no doubt that successful meetings could be organised in every country and region of the United Kingdom, which in turn could be replicated in every town and city.  

Such a campaign could spark a movement of mass union recruitment and organisation. The rebirth of the shop stewards’ movement could alter the entire situation in this country, refocussing on class and not constitutional issues.  

In Solidarity  

Keith Henderson  

LE/107 Security Branch Secretary  

Unite The Union  


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