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Employment justice demanded for cleaners and security guards

Today (Monday June 15) is International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards – and the CWU is marking the occasion by focusing on the importance of securing Real Living Wage pay rates for both groups of workers.

With the Covid-19 crisis serving to highlight the ‘essential’ nature of many undervalued areas of work, the union is throwing its weight behind the key demands being made by the TUC including:

Fair pay and decent contracts for all cleaners and security guards – including a £10 an hour minimum wage, an end to zero-hour contracts, fair notice of shifts, a decent pension and reasonable rights to holiday, sick leave and sick pay

Safe working and full access to appropriate PPE at all times, but especially during the current pandemic

Insourcing and responsible procurement to restore terms and condition in a sector where outsourcing of both cleaning and security services has become endemic

Recognition, dignity and respect for cleaners and security guards as key workers.

“Across the telecoms & financial services sector and industry as a whole cleaners and security guards have been on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic,” explains deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.

“They’ve put themselves and their families at risk to keep us clean and safe, yet across vast swathes of British industry they continue to be badly paid, insecure and undervalued.”

International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards is held on June 15 each year in memory of a group of Los Angeles janitors being beaten up by the police during a peaceful demonstration against their contractor.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the incident, and the 2020 commemoration has been given added poignancy by the thought-provoking statistic that security guards are statistically more likely to die from Covid-19 any other category of worker.

“BAME people are disproportionately represented in both professions, which are also highly gendered, meaning that the poor working conditions of cleaners and security guards compounds wider labour market inequalities,” points out a TUC spokesperson.

No fewer than 80% of cleaners are women, while 84% of security guards are men. 16% of cleaners and 26% of security guards are BAME workers, even though BAME people make up around 12% of the total workforce.

Against a backdrop where both occupations have been especially susceptible to outsourcing initiatives, even by public sector employers, they are twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts compared to the workforce as a whole.

CWU assistant secretary Brendan O’Brien agrees with the TUC’s analysis that ‘widespread outsourcing in both sectors has put pressure on pay and working conditions.’ He points out that the CWU’s success in maintaining Real Living Wage (RLW) pay rates for former BT Facilities Services housekeepers and security guards who were TUPEd over to ISS last year means pay rates on that contract are the exception rather than the rule.

“Although ISS is paying the RLW on the BT contract that’s only because of the safeguards the CWU managed to secure for our transferring former-BTFS members in some exceptionally tough TUPE talks,” he explains.

“The RLW does not apply across the board in the wider ISS, and we also have cleaning, security and catering members in Compass and 14forty who are paid the national minimum wage.

“14forty is currently going cap in hand to Capita to be able to pay a differential for supervisors because the contract is right to the bone.

“Of course cleaning and security companies want to make a profit, but ultimately it is the outsourcing model that is driving terms and conditions down – because client companies want to pay the least they possibly can for these important services.”

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