The union called on the government and other public-sector employers to pay all the capital’s cleaners the London living wage as it embarked on the annual round of pay talks in November.
“We negotiate with the bigger cleaning companies every year,” said Unite regional officer, Jose Vallejo. “In the private sector, in most cases, we have secured a 2.9 per cent increase, in line with the 25p rise in the London living wage to £8.80 an hour.
“But the public sector has not got the message. Cleaners in government departments in Whitehall are on lower rates which do not meet the basic costs of living in London. In many government buildings, there are two different worlds under the same roof,” says Vallejo.
Since launching its Justice for Cleaners campaign in 2005, Unite has helped to improve the terms and status of cleaners. Around 75 per cent of cleaners who are Unite members now receive the London living wage. Many of them have also won significant advances in sick pay, pensions and holidays.
“Ten years ago, the cleaners who keep London working were invisible,” said Vallejo. “By standing together, they have won victories and earned respect. No-one gets anything without organising and fighting for it.”
The public sector is not the only challenge for Colombian-born Vallejo. “The next campaign will be to extend the London living wage to all badly paid workers in London, not just cleaners,” he said.
Contact Jose Vallejo on 020 8596 9966 or email
Unite represents more than 4,000 cleaners in the capital, including workers in Whitehall, the City of London, Canary Wharf and London Underground.
The living wage in London is £8.80 per hour (up 25p in November 2013) and £7.65 per hour outside London (up 20p). The UK minimum wage is £6.31 per hour (up 12p in October 2013).
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.