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Unprecedented strike planned by London cleaners over unfair pay and conditions

Cleaners at the Ministry of Justice and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are planning to strike for the first time this week over low pay and unfair working conditions.

The strikes – which will affect Kensington and Chelsea Town Halls, will take place on Tuesday 7th, Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th of August and at several Health Care America locations at the end of August.

The workers, who are mostly Portuguese and Spanish speaking Latin Americans and Africans from Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome & Principe are members of the United Voices of the World (UVW) trade union.

Currently, workers involved in all three disputes share three common grievances and have three common demands:

  • An occupational sick pay scheme as currently workers rely on Statutory Sick Pay. SSP is unpaid for the first three days of illness. Thereafter workers will receive just £18 per day from the fourth day of sickness onwards. This means workers are being forced to come to work when sick in order to meet their living costs.
  • Parity of terms and conditions with directly employed staff  in terms of holiday entitlements, hours and overtime pay. A two-tier workforce leads to undercutting, a race to the bottom and exploitation say UVW.
  • Payment of the London Living Wage with guaranteed annual increments. The London Living Wage is currently £10.20p/h  – compared to the National Minimum Wage, which is £7.83p/h.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) cleaners work under the OCS contract at three MoJ sites including the Headquarters at Petit France. The strike ballot and vote there saw a 100% turn out and a 100% vote in favour of industrial action.

UVW members employed by Compass for Health Care America (HCA) clean eight hospitals and care centres including The Shard, Guy’s Cancer Centre and Harley Street Clinic. HCA is the biggest private health care company in the world.

Dave Wilson IFMA Fellow and a Director at Morphose commented ; “When contractors are prepared to pay minimum wage and clients are prepared to let them, it’s no surprise we have had a race to the bottom on staff wages from outsourcing. This has to stop if we want good service and staff retention.”

He added: “Since RICS launched its FM procurement guidance with an emphatic on ethical buying, I firmly believe that fair pay for staff is a critical issue for our industry. It is, in my view, as much of an issue as making sure that contractors don’t routinely underbid and then go bust.”

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