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Strike highlights difference between National Living Wage and London equivalent

07 August 2018

Cleaners working at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Kensington and Chelsea Council are striking over their pay, the BBC has reported.

Currently paid the National Living Wage, £7.83 an hour for workers aged 25 and over, the cleaners are asking to be paid the London Living Wage.

The example of one worker was provided by the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, stating that he needed two jobs and worked between 13 and 14 hours per day, six days a week to make ends meet.

After paying bills, rent, transport costs and sending money to support his family, the man said he had £100 per month left over.

Strike organiser United Voices of the World Union said there were further issues involved in the dispute, including lack of an occupational sick pay scheme and pay parity with directly employed staff.

The impact of both the National Living Wage and the London Living Wage has been previously discussed by the PFM Editorial Advisory Board, with members questioning the impact these are having on service contracts.

Agreement with clients is needed to raise funds to pay staff the appropriate rate, said EAB members, in order for service providers to continue to operate on a sustainable basis.

With the BBC reporting that the council did not control what its contractors paid their staff, this was disputed by both the United Voices of the World Union and Labour MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad.

The issue had been discussed for the past eight years, said Ms Dent Coad, and the council had claimed it was unable to afford to pay the London Living Wage.

However, "they choose to subsidise opera and other things for the same amount, but they won't actually pay people a living wage so they don't have to rely on benefits," she said.

The council's claims were also disputed by contractor Amey, which employs the cleaners, in a statement to the BBC:

"We have a number of agreements with councils to pay the London Living Wage," it said.

"[Kensington and Chelsea Council] made no such request and so the staff on this contract currently receive the National Living Wage."

The MoJ said it "strictly" enforces payment of the National Living Wage in its contracts, "but specific pay and terms are for employers to agree directly with their employees".

The difference between the two payment standards is more than £2 per hour.

Kensington and Chelsea Council said it intended to take the cleaning services contract back under its own control and claimed it would "review all the associated costs and services at that time".


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