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London: Canary Wharf cleaners campaign for living wage
East London Lines
Michael Pooler

December 3, 2011
View the Original Article

Cleaners working at the Canary Wharf estate are calling on employers to pay them a “living wage.”

The 15 workers, based at the 15-storey Exchange Tower, are currently paid the National Minimum Wage of £6.08 per hour.

But they say this is “impossible” to live on.

Now they are calling on their employer, sub-contractor LCC Support Services, to pay them the London Living Wage – a non-binding standard set by the Mayor of London at a higher rate of £8.30 per hour in recognition of the high costs of living in the capital.

One of the workers, who did not wish to be named, told EastLondonLines: “I have three daughters – it is not enough to live on. Pay is less than £200 a week. How can you pay the bills, council tax, transport? You are forced to live in poverty.

“So you have to work very long hours: part-time in the morning, then cleaning in the day-time, part-time at night. You can work 14, 16 hours a day.

“This is supposed to be one of the richest areas in the country – there is no logic.”

Alberto Durango, organizer at the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) London cleaners’ branch, said there has been “no dialogue” with the company for over three weeks since they offered £6.26 an hour. He said that cleaners would continue to campaign until the company agreed to a “decent” wage.

The union are demanding that an increase in wages be accompanied by a guarantee not to downscale the workforce, as has happened in other successful campaigns for the London Living Wage.

A spokesperson for LCC said that the company was “not prepared to comment at the moment.”

Exchange Tower, which sits in the heart of London’s second finance capital, is home to banks including Barclays and HSBC, accounting firm KPMG as well as government regulatory agency the Financial Services Authority.

The cleaners’ case has already gained parliamentary support from Labour MP John McDonnell, who earlier this month raised a Commons motion calling on the employers to respect the London Living Wage.