The Independent Workers Union (IWGB) which represents cleaners in John Lewis stores in London has stated that it will step up its campaign for the London Living Wage in the run up to Christmas. This will include a new protests and industrial action.
Protest After ‘Partner’ Sacked After Giving Interview to The Guardian
The union will start their campaign today with by holding a protest at The Guardian to raise awareness of the vindictive actions of the John Lewis management in sacking a union activist and former John Lewis ‘partner’ at the Westfield Stratford store. Raph Ashley a union activist was sacked by John Lewis on 24 March 2013, after he gave an interview to The Guardian during a strike by cleaners at the Oxford Street store in August 2012.
John Lewis management claimed that they had to dismiss Raph Ashley because he made a remark which they deemed racist. The union rejects these claims as the “racist” remark was that he suggested in a canteen discussion that there should be more black and minority ethnic workers employed by John Lewis. Mr Ashley claimed that managers were bully him for his union activity and being outspoken about the welfare of workers. Mr Ashley had been told by management he was not allowed to talk about wages or ask people to join a trade union. John Lewis management admitted that Raph Ashley was being closely monitored after exposing management’s fabrication of temperature records on a fridge storing food.
Many ‘partners’ employed directly by John Lewis have expressed sympathy for the cleaners who are paid poverty wages. Raph Ashley is the only ‘partner’ to openly state his support for the cleaners cause. The union believes it is no coincidence he was then sacked. Raph Ashley and fellow members of IWGB believe that The Guardian has failed to rise to the defence of those who in good faith gave an interview. This is why they are being targeted.
“Freedom of speech cannot be sustained when those who engage with a free press are penalised for doing so. The Guardian need to show that they don’t abandon those who speak out about the poverty and inequality in London today. The John Lewis cleaners are second class citizens, good enough to clean the toilets but not to share in the profits they help make. “
– IWGB General Secretary Chris Ford
John Lewis Cleaners insulted with a 15p pay rise
Cleaners at John Lewis are employed through a sub-contractor Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM). They are excluded from the partnership scheme and denied any share of the company’s profits. The contract with the cleaning company has just been renewed, however John Lewis made no effort to ensure that paying the London Living Wage, which is £8.55, was made a condition of the contract. So the cleaners have been given 15 pence per hour pay increase rather than the £1.73 that they need, resulting in the poverty pay of £6.87 per-hour, and night cleaners on £7.02. The cleaners are being denied a route out of working poverty at a time when John Lewis has announced an increase in sales over the past six-month to the end of July to be worth £4.7 billion and profits were up at £115.8 million.
“The John Lewis cleaners each earn just above the minimum wage, in London that is poverty wages. When the campaign started last year the workers realised they can win. Now our union is stronger and more confident. Other unions are also helping us and with solidarity we will win.”
– Alberto Durango, a cleaner and IWGB Organiser
In the last Greater London Authority elections over two-million Londoners voted for parties that stood for the Living Wage. Scrooge employers like John Lewis Partnership need to accept the voice of London.
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