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.
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.
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.