John Lewis Cleaners to Strike for the Living Wage
by Chris Ford
Mon 4th Mar 2013
Cleaners at the John Lewis Partnership are to ballot for strike action at the flagship Oxford Street store. This is the first step in the revived campaign to win the Living Wage for all cleaners employed by John Lewis.
The Industrial Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) which represents the 33 cleaners at the store has served a formal ‘notice of dispute’ with sub-contractor Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM) who employs the outsourced cleaners.
On Thursday 7th March John Lewis will announce it annual bonus for in-house staff. The company is expected to announce a 17% increase of its annual profits of £415 million in the year to January 2013; this follows bumper sales with John Lewis making £684.8 million in the Christmas period.
However, the cleaners at John Lewis who are excluded from the partnership scheme are denied any share of the company's profits.
A high profile union campaign last year saw the cleaners take strike action in July winning a 10% pay increase. But the cleaners still earn a mere £6.72 per-hour, the London living wage of £8.55 per-hour is a basic minimum to live on, which the employers could easily afford to pay.
IWGB General Secretary Chris Ford says:
‘Like their snowman John Lewis has a heart of ice. The cleaners are second class citizens, good enough to clean the toilets but not to share in the profits they help make. We made an agreement with the sub-contractor ICM of a meaningful review with the aim to move toward the London Living Wage as the cleaning contract came up for renewal. Now they have amnesia and ignore our request for talks.’
John McDonnell MP who has campaigned for justice for the cleaners says:
‘I went on the picket lines outside Schroders bank in the City and outside John Lewis, whose cleaners are also paid the minimum wage or, in some instances, just above. The cleaners were getting up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and travelling to work by bus because the tube was too expensive for them. The general expression that was used by the cleaners in these cases was, “We are treated like dirt.” There is now a new alliance being put together, in terms of trade unions supporting the London living wage campaign, because people cannot take it anymore.’
Alberto Durango, a cleaner and IWGB Organiser, said:
‘The John Lewis cleaners each earn just above the minimum wage, in London that is poverty wages. When the campaign started last year the workers realised they can win. Now our union is stronger and more confident. Management are trying to divide us, but we're not stupid, we have one voice. Other unions are also helping us and with solidarity we will win.’
In the last GLA election over two-million Londoners voted for parties that stood for the living wage. Scrooge employers like John Lewis Partnership need to accept the voice of London.
1. For information and interview requests, contact: Chris Ford, General Secretary 07582983757 or 0207 426 1983.
2. IWGB is an independent workers union which originated in the Justice for Cleaners campaign. Formerly known as ‘IWW Cleaners Branch’, the IWGB has been organising cleaners, Hotel workers and ‘vulnerable workers’ across the City. IWGB is cooperating with the rail union RMT and civil service union PCS to achieve the living wage for cleaners in London.
3. The IWGB served official Notice of Dispute to ICM on March 1st 2013, as per legal requirements the next step by IWGB will be to serve a seven day notice of the commencement of the strike ballot.
4. The London Living Wage is £8.55 per-hour,
5. IWGB cleaner members, employed by ICM and working at John Lewis Oxford Street took strike action on 13th and 20th July 2012. They stopped compulsory redundancies, cuts in hours and won an increase from £6.08 per hour to £6.72 per hour. See:
6. IWGB members have won the living wage recently at the Exchange Tower, Canary Wharf and at the St Georges University of London, Tooting. IWGB is currenlty balloting for strike action at the Barbican Centre for the London Living Wage.
7. Follow PCS on Twitter IWGBUnion @IWGBUnion