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ROH Cleaners are not paid the London living wage


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Apologies if this has been discussed before (I have looked but can't find it). As I know that many ROH regulars use this board I thought people might be interested to know that the cleaners at the ROH are paid £7 an hour, which is less than the London living wage of £8.80 an hour.  As some of you may know, £7 just about complies with the legal minimum wage but is generally considered insufficient to cover living costs in London and many businesses and London councils are making a point of branding themselves as "London living wage" employers.  The ROH is saying that, as the cleaners are employed via a sub-contractor and not directly, it is not their problem but, as a patron, I think this is a wholly inadequate response and have emailed to tell them so.  It would be good if anyone who agrees with me might think about doing the same.

 

See below for various reporting on this:

 

Iin the Mirror (Scroll down to the section headed "Points of Disorder")

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kevin-maguire-ed-balls-flirting-3016457

 

From the Stage, regarding threatened strike action during the BAFTAs, which the ROH declared they would "strikebreak"

http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2014/01/roh-cleaners-strike-baftas/

 

On Norman LeBrecht's music blog - plus comments below the article

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/01/royal-opera-house-threatened-by-cleaners-strike.html

 

Thank you

Lindsay

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Thanks for posting this here. I had a release back in November from a friend in the IWGB (who knows I am a supporting friend and at the ROH a lot). I agree the position of the management (above) is inadequate. I emailed ROH back in November and have yet to receive any reply (which is not unusual). A few of us who go a lot are thinking about boycotting the restaurants etc (which we use all the time) and letting management know why we are doing it. We have also donated to the union fund rather than ROH coffers . . . . it makes me very angry that such a well run, clean, efficient house is reliant on such poorly paid members of staff who nevertheless do a great job.

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Lindsay, bloomsbury and anyone else, I hope that in your enthusiasm you will also be writing to your local council, your MP (isn't Westminster one of the biggest offenders?) and various other public bodies who subcontract much of their work, probably, I'd guess, under the same conditions.  (I wonder if any of them are ensuring - or are even able to ensure - that subcontractors are paid the living wage.)  It's become a very widespread problem as bodies try to cut costs, and sometimes there are people in the middle who profit greatly from both sides.

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Thank you bloomsbury, it's good to know other people feel like this and I like your idea of donating to the Union fund rather than ROH.

 

Alison, I couldn't agree with you more.  My council (Islington) in June last year brought all of their street cleaning and recycling services back in house from contractors and are now paying all of the employees who work in those areas the London living wage.  As they are no longer factoring in a profit for the third party contractor this has actually saved the council (and council tax payers) money, rather than adding cost.  I wish more councils and businesses would do the same!

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That may well be Rosy and is very regrettable, but it is no argument for paying other people less than the living wage.  Also I doubt it is the case for the dancers employed by the ROH. This should not be a race to the bottom.  I often think dancers would benefit from a stronger union, like that for musicians.

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For info press release today - I am there tomorrow night (Manon) and will wish them well also.

 

 

Ken Loach calls for no-one to cross picket lines on BAFTA’s strike

 

“No-one should cross your picket lines. The union leaders must call on their members to show their solidarity with you by respecting your picket. BAFTA has a particular responsibility.”

 

Award winning film director Ken Loach has issued an impassioned appeal for support for the porters and cleaners due to strike at the Royal Opera House for the Living Wage during the BAFTA awards. 

 

The porters and cleaners who employed by sub-contractor MITIE, are members of the Independent Workers Union (IWGB) – they voted by 100% in a ballot to strike for the London Living Wage of £8.80 per-hour.  The BAFTA awards will be held on Sunday 16th February at the Royal Opera House, the porters and cleaners will strike over the whole weekend.   Ken Loach who was awarded a BAFTA Fellowship in 2006 in a message of solidarity to IWGB states:

 

“I send you my very warmest good wishes in your struggle for a living wage.  Everyone has the right to be paid a fair wage so that they can live in security and with dignity. The Royal Opera House management cannot escape responsibility. They employ the sub-contractor, Mitie. They should make payment of the London Living Wage a condition of the contract. I bet the management don’t have to live on starvation wages!

 

You should have the support of all trades unionists. No-one should cross your picket lines. The union leaders must call on their members to show their solidarity with you by respecting your picket. BAFTA has a particular responsibility. Many of its members would claim to be in favour of social justice and against gross inequality. Let them show that commitment by standing alongside you when the red carpet is rolled out.  Good luck from Ken Loach and all at Sixteen Films”

 

Award winning actress, Glenda Jackson MP has joined growing support amongst MPs for Early Day Motion 919 tabled by John McDonnell MP in support for the campaign.   John McDonnell states:

 

"People attending the Royal Opera House need to know that when they leave it will be workers on poverty pay that clean up after them. I urge them to join with us in pressing the Opera House management to demand their contractors pay a living wage."

 

Talks took place at ACAS on Tuesday 14th between IWGB and MITIE, discussions continue with the ROH.  Chris Ford IWGB General Secretary says:  “For a mere 0.15% of the Royal Opera House annual income the poverty pays of the porters and cleaners could be ended.  Support for the strike will be solid and already many direct employees at the ROH have stated they will not cross the picket line at the BAFTAs strike”.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

They choose to outsource and have a say in the terms of the outsourcing agreement, which will set out the parameters within which the outsourcer will carry out the agreed services.  It is always open to the client to make it a condition that the outsourcer pays the living wage.

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Well, I am glad if they can do that, fingers crossed that it works.

 

One of my oldest friends runs a cleaning company dealing mainly with commercial properties.  Hers is a relatively small operation, and she comes up against the larger concerns frequently.  Her cleaners tell tales of downright bullying on the part of other employers to accept pitiful wages.  And the sad thing is, there is always someone out there who is prepared to do it for such a small amount. 

 

On the other side of the coin, my friend also tells some tales about the dreadful behaviour of the firms she cleans for, when it comes to paying their bills.

 

But that is another story.....

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Part of the reason that companies outsource to subcontractors is so that they can claim not to be responsible when the workers are treated badly. But it's not as though the companies are at the mercy of the subcontractors - presumably there are subcontractors out there who treat their employees well, or who at least can be persuaded to pay a living wage as part of the contract. When a company is saving money by going through a subcontractor that treats employees so badly, there's very little point in the company trying to distance itself from what's happening, because in a free-market economy there's always a choice. Apparently the ROH has chosen to save money on the backs of the workers, and I don't think many people are being fooled by the "we're not responsible" line.

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When I worked, the cleaners were subcontracted out.  When the contract came up for renewal, a different company won the bid but it was the same cleaners on less money (take a paycut or there is the door syndrome) and the next time it went to another company and the same thing happened!

 

O

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Perhaps if the government were to increase the national minimum wage from the current pittance to something approaching a living wage...

 

Well, at least the minimum wage in the UK is quite a bit more than in the USA, and there are serious calls for it to be abolished altogether here. Glad to see the workers managed to get their management to agree, although I wonder how long this might have dragged on if not for the BAFTA awards.

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They choose to outsource and have a say in the terms of the outsourcing agreement, which will set out the parameters within which the outsourcer will carry out the agreed services.  It is always open to the client to make it a condition that the outsourcer pays the living wage.

 

Catching up a bit belatedly here:

 

You can always make conditions, and the subcontractor can always sign them, but how do you enforce them?  Do you just assume that the subcontractor is keeping to the wording of the contract - as they should of course be, given that the contract is legally binding - or do you do anything to keep tabs on them?  And can you check how much the employees are actually being paid?

 

Melody, am I right in thinking you're based in the USA?  I got a bit confused with a posting in the "Flooding" thread.

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Hi Alison - yes, British expat living in the USA but with relatives in Britain that we keep in close touch with. So my ballet experience is watching the Royal Ballet and Festival Ballet in the 1960s and 1970s, San Francisco Ballet, Oakland, and Smuin in the 1980s to early 2000s, and nothing very much at the moment except on DVD and YouTube. Somehow our trips back to the UK seem to coincide with when the RB is either not there or sold out.

 

Regarding subcontractors - I'd hope that there's someone at the ROH whose job includes keeping tabs on their various contracts and making sure that the other party is doing what the contract states. Otherwise there'd be something illegal going on, especially if a subcontractor takes ROH money to pay wages at the London living wage but doesn't do it.

Edited by Melody
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