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Overworked migrant cleaners at Vodafone launch campaign over pay and sick pay

At the peak of the cost of living crisis, outsourced migrant cleaners from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) working at Vodafone HQ launch a campaign for fair pay and proper sick pay, following years of chronic overwork and victimisation.

Several cleaners have faced harassment from management and disciplinary action from subcontractor Mitie for turning down extra responsibilities beyond their job description, following sweeping redundancies of catering staff made during the pandemic.

Cleaners are demanding £12.50/hr, full sick pay (which other outsourced workers in the same building enjoy), the hiring of more cleaners, and that Mitie immediately reverse all unfair disciplinary action.

Ivan Andino, a cleaner at Vodafone HQ, said: “We deserve respect and dignity in our place of work, but we have been forced to constantly endure harassment from management, who overwork and exploit us. I risked my life for poverty pay, working all through the pandemic while managers stayed safe at home, only to be disciplined for refusing to take on extra workloads for free. The pandemic is ongoing, and the cost of living is increasing every day. I need fair pay to support my family. I need full sick pay so I can afford to stay home when I’m ill. And I need respect and dignity at work so that my basic wellbeing is taken seriously.”

In early 2021, cleaners began organising with the IWGB at Vodafone HQ and they have already won the London Living Wage for cleaners at Vodafone buildings nationally, as well as the hiring of some new staff, though workers continue to face excessive workloads.

Martiza Castillo Calle, Vice President (IWGB), said: “Like many across the capital, outsourced cleaners at Vodafone bore the brunt of the pandemic. These workers risked their lives working through the lockdowns for sub-living wage pay, taking on excessive workloads after their employer cut back on staff to save costs, and then they were harassed for standing up for themselves. By organising in their workplace, we have seen that these workers can win pay increases and the extra staff they desperately need. Now these workers are united in their demands for an end to victimisation, for fair pay to support themselves, and for the sick pay that they need to keep each other safe.”

Vodafone increased its profits by 24% to €5.1 billion in 2021 and subcontractor Mitie’s profits soared by an enormous 187% to £167 million on the back of short-term COVID-related contracts. Last year, Mitie faced resistance from the IWGB for its mistreatment of key workers cleaning Southwark hostels.

Image: outsourced cleaners from IWGB Cleaners and Facilities Branch demonstrate outside the private London Bridge Hospital over poverty pay, harassment, and covid violations, March 2022. Credit: IWGB.

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