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Outraged underpaid cleaners on strike in London demanding “Justice for Cleaners”

Cleaners go on strike in London as a result of low pay - Justice for Cleaners

Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Underpaid workers, outraged by low wages gathered in London on Tuesday 7th August, demanding “Justice for Cleaners”.

Represented by the UVW trade union (United Voices of the World), they gathered outside the offices of the Chelsea and Kensington council, as well as the Ministry of Justice.

Joined by Labour MP Emma Dent Coad, they ask that their wages are increased to £10.20 an hour – the standard London living wage. Currently having to go by on merely £7.83 an hour, the cleaners at the protest feel greatly underappreciated and demand better treatment.

The Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington council (RKBC) said on Thursday that this is not the first time they were faced with situations of this nature, as they are often held accountable for seeking “to get value for money for our residents and taxpayers”. RKBC, however, said that it cannot be held responsible for what a given company “pays their own staff”.

The low wages mean that a cleaner must often work two or even three positions simultaneously in order to make ends meet.  Those who decide to stick to “just” having two jobs often struggle a great deal to get by. According to union rep Maria Echeverria, this situation clearly “shows that major public institutions can no longer use outsourcing contracts as a shield to hide from poverty pay and exploitative conditions”.

The important question to ask here is the following:

Would you put as much effort in your work if you were severely underpaid?

Imagine the following: due to an unfortunate turn of events, you end up in an accident. You then find yourself, on the operating table, at the local hospital. What would happen if the doctor, who was about to operate on you, felt a lack of motivation and desire to put his best into the procedure due to low pay?

Sure, your family could potentially sue afterwards. But what good would that do for you?

How about if the building engineer did not feel motivated and did not put enough effort in the construction work? Again, you could sue but, what good does that do post factum?

“It’s a different type of job”, one might say. And while it might be so, the principle holds true no matter what field of work you apply it to. We all enjoy walking on clean streets, working in sanitary offices and living in clean buildings, do we not? All of this is exactly thanks to the efforts of individuals in the cleaning field.

Cleaning is a demanding position

You might have got used to taking it for granted that public places and corporate buildings should be clean – it is, after all, the norm. But without the cleaning personnel, that would not be possible. And when do you think that these busy-during-working-hours places are maintained? Naturally, the answer is out of office hours. Early in the morning, while you are still sound asleep at home, or late at night, when you are relaxing and enjoying your free time, cleaners are hard at work.

Mistakes and errors are yet again another thing that cleaners often find themselves suffering. Everyone makes mistakes, corporate CEOs included. Cleaners, however, are not allowed to make any mistakes. They need to be professional, always on time and are never allowed to miss a spot. And while that is well-within the goals of any cleaning company, looking at the bigger picture, it is not entirely realistic. Every business works with humans, and wherever there is a human factor, mistakes happen.

When a cleaner misses a spot, however, instead of politely saying “Hey, you guys missed a spot, could you please take care of it next time”, many people opt for outraged comments and ridiculous demands. This is absolutely disrespectful, both for the cleaning professionals themselves and for the business as a whole.

Everyone’s efforts need to be recognised, and the universally accepted method for that in our day and age is money. Everyone needs to feel appreciated and validated for their contributions to our society. This includes cleaners, engineers, medical professionals, as well as everyone in-between. Until we all realise that, strikes of this kind will keep popping up.

The reality of the situation

Cleaners most certainly deserve Justice

The reality of the situation is that there still is a great number of people who do not appreciate what cleaners do for them. And while some companies have no issues paying the appropriate prices for the services they receive, the majority remains unwilling to pay even as much as it would take to meet the London minimum wage standard, much less turn a sizeable profit for the cleaning agency.

This is a problem, shared amongst many of the companies in our field – some clients have a difficult time believing that, when the minimum wage increases, so do the costs for the service. This is especially true with repeat customers that have been happily benefiting from high-level cleaning procedures for years. Having grown accustomed to the high quality and affordable price tags, they are very likely to question the increases in costs. Companies who do not care about the well-being of their employees, on the other hand, have no such issues and continue operating at lower price tags.

This results in the suffering of those, who wish to treat their workers right by paying them respectable wages. If they wish to retain their customer base, they are often forced to operate at minimum profit and end up having to rely on volume instead.

We know full-well that the only type of productive and positive worker is the well-motivated one. Therefore, we aim to do our best to provide our employees with excellent conditions. Our cleaners benefit from monetary compensations, appropriate for their field and expertise and then some. Furthermore, as an established provider of domestic and commercial cleaning services for UK citizens, we believe that it is our duty to set and uphold a standard that is beyond what is accepted as “normal” in the field.

We go above and beyond in our efforts to promote eco-awareness and eco-friendly approaches. This means deviations from some of the popular cleaning procedures and methodologies, additional training courses, and specific requirements, all of which amount to more demanding work. And as we all know – the more specialised the work, the better the pay needs to be.

We have, under our employment, some cleaners that have been with us for a great many years. They have stayed in our company because we treat them fairly and with respect. We have always tried to give them better pay and provide them with more benefits than our competitors would. This has helped us keep our employees within the company, allowing us to deliver an excellent service to you – our esteemed clients.

Getting this far wouldn’t have been possible, were it not for our professional cleaning teams’ constant strive for excellence. And they wouldn’t have felt anywhere near as motivated if they weren’t receiving their fair share, would they?

Feel free to share your opinion with us in the comment section below.

Avatar for Antoaneta Tsocheva

Written by Antoaneta Tsocheva

Antoaneta has been editing FastKlean news articles since 2001. Highly experienced, passionate and proactive professional. She is managing, motivating, training and developing, a successful and productive team and thrives in highly pressurised and challenging working environments. Antoaneta has strong attention to detail and ability to help others improve their performance.

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