Barbican Centre Cleaners in Historic Strike for the Living Wage

March 18, 2013 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

The Industrial Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) which represents the 32 cleaners at the Barbican Centre has called its members on strike on Thursday 21stMarch 2013.

The cleaners at the Barbican are employed by the sub-contractor MITIE, and are paid a mere £619 per hour – they are campaigning for the London Living Wage of £8.55 per-hour.

The Barbican is Europe’s largest integrated arts centre. Owned by the Corporation of London it is the home for the London Symphony Orchestra. The strength of feeling of the cleaners was shown in the strike ballot which saw a 71% turn out with a 100% yes vote – not a single person voted against going on strike.

Since 2012 the cleaners have been campaigning for the Living Wage, demanding respect and dignity at work. Starting work at 05:30 am the cleaners have complained of abuse by their management – citing behaviour towards them that is often ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious and insulting’. The IWGB has undertaken an Employment Tribunal of one pregnant cleaner whose ill-treatment was such she was conveyed to hospital after being found collapsed, bleeding in the toilets.

The City of London Corporation revealed in December 2012 that its ‘City Cash’ account holds more than £1.3 billion – ‘for the benefit of London as a whole’. In stark contrast the Corporation states the Barbican cleaners must to wait until 2014 before’we’ll apply our pro-LLW policy to that contract’. MITIE the giant facilities company who have the contract are also not short of money to pay the cleaners – announcing their operating profit soared to£52.9 million at the end of 2012

Despite on-going efforts at ACAS the IWGB has not yet made progress to achieve justice for the cleaners. Strike action will begin on polling day for the City of London Common Councilmen elections; it is also the day of the Music Education Expo conference for music teachers at the Barbican Centre.

IWGB General Secretary Chris Ford says:

Anyone with a heart can see the justice of the cleaners’ case, whilst other London councils suffering cuts do pay the Living Wage; the Corporation of London stands on £1.3 billion but allows its cleaners to struggle to live on poverty wages. The cleaners have shown great courage, I appeal to all who use the Barbican to refuse to cross our picket lines and support the cleaners strike.

IWGB member and Barbican cleaner Alex Visotsky says:

We are fighting for our right to be respected and to live and work with dignity and a Living Wage. MITIE says they don’t have enough money to increase our salary from a poverty wage to a Living Wage but they do have enough money to pay their managers big salaries in order to watch over us and treat us badly. This is our fight and the fight of every worker who wants to be treated with dignity and respect.

Other trade unions have rallied to support the Barbican strike:

Steve Hedley Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) says:

“I fully support the IWGB cleaners at the Barbican struggling for a living wage and decent conditions solidarity from me and the RMT union.”

Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary, Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) says:

‘The Barbican is one of the UK’s premier artistic institutions. MITIE and all contractors working for the Barbican have a duty to enter proper talks with the IWGB to pay cleaners a living wage and offer dignity at work.’

John McDonnell MP who is campaigning for justice for the cleaners says:

‘I fully support the Barbican cleaners strike for the Living Wage, because people cannot take it anymore. Yes, people are seeking to organise and to negotiate, but they are also taking direct action now. The cleaners cannot survive on their existing wages. I will be on the IWGB picket line and I call on others to come along also and show solidarity’



1.For information and interview requests, contact: Chris Ford, General Secretary 07582983757 or email

2. IWGB is an independent workers union which originated in the Justice for Cleaners campaign. 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 ballot was conducted by Popularis Ltd and closed on 8th March 2013, 71% responded, 100% voted yes to strike action, no one voted no.

4. The first strike of cleaners at the Barbican will take place on Thursday 21 st March for 24 hours. There will be pickets at the Barbican Centre entrances.

5. The London Living Wage is £8.55 per-hour, for more information see the London Living Wage Foundation:

6. IWGB cleaner members:

7. 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 currently in dispute at John Lewis and Capgemini Vauxhall with ICM and ISS.

8. Previous IWGB campaigns can be found here:

9. Follow IWGB on Twitter IWGBUnion @IWGBUnion


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This post was written by Chris Ford

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