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26.05.2022 / Press releases /

Cleaners and security guards union to demonstrate against government’s culture of disrespect against low paid workers

  • United Voices of the World (UVW), a union which represents cleaners and security guards in government buildings, has called a protest outside Downing Street
  • UVW is protesting against the culture of disrespect towards low paid workers, like cleaners and security guards, in government buildings and offices across London
  • The protest will take place at 5:30pm on Friday 27 May, outside the gates of Downing Street. Cleaners and officials from UVW will be available to interview.

UVW represents outsourced cleaners at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) who are still fighting for full pay sick pay and the London Living Wage. One cleaner and UVW member, Emanuel Gomes, tragically lost his life in April 2020. Something which could potentially have been avoided if Emanuel had had access to a sick pay scheme which genuinely allowed him to take time off work when sick. Instead he was forced to come into work when sick because he could not afford to take a sick day. Cleaners from MoJ will be joining the Friday protest outside Downing Street.

Vicente Mendes, Emanuel’s cousin, UVW member and MoJ cleaner, said:

“Emanuel didn’t receive sick pay and he died without receiving anything. It can’t be like this, I feel very sad. Government employees receive sick pay but cleaners do not. We are working just like them and we don’t deserve to be treated any differently.”

Florencio Hortago, a cleaner at the MoJ and UVW member, said:

“Cleaners are disrespected on a daily basis, even working for the government. When the pandemic hit we didn’t have sick pay. I have been working at the MoJ for 18 years and I still don’t have full sick pay. I worked with Emanuel Gomes for a time and I knew him. He got sick and he continued to go to work despite feeling sick because otherwise he wouldn’t get paid. He shouldn’t have had to choose between resting or getting paid. This led him to his tragic death. I also was very ill during three weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, when we didn’t know whether our symptoms were Covid-19 or not and I still had to go to work feeling unwell because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent. When we asked for masks, they said no. We, the MoJ cleaners with the help of UVW fought against this and managed to get the MoJ to cover our Covid-19 related absences but we are still fighting to get full pay sick pay. We are on poverty wages, barely paid pennies above the minimum wage. I have three jobs. I have just finished working a 12+ hour overnight shift cleaning three different buildings. This is the situation of most of us in the cleaning services and that is what is truly disrespectful.”

Vicente Gomes, a cleaner at the MoJ and UVW member, said:

“Emanuel and I were from the same country, he was a good person. During the pandemic, while we didn’t have masks and we were on poverty wages, the Prime Minister broke the law. This is very wrong, this is not normal, he knows the law.”

Petros Elia, general secretary for UVW, said:

“We’re not in the least bit surprised by the revelations in the Sue Gray report. We have thousands of members who work as cleaners and security guards and these workers face disrespect and discrimination on a daily basis in offices and government buildings across London, not just in Downing Street. 

“It is outrageous to have rowdy and illegal parties during the pandemic but to then expect cleaners to mop up after you and to pay them, as well as porters and security guards poverty wages, and deny them full sick pay is abhorrent. Most of the cleaners and security guards out there are ethnic minority workers, Black, brown and migrant people, who are disproportionately impacted by poor working conditions and racialised inequalities.

“We represent cleaners at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) who had to walk off the job during the pandemic because they were not given adequate PPE and were denied full sick pay, which they eventually won for Covid-19 absences. One of our members who worked as a cleaner at the MoJ tragically died an untimely and avoidable death. That’s how far the levels of disrespect and mistreatment went and goes towards low paid workers. But these workers are fighting back. The security guards at Great Ormond Street Hospital, for example, are fighting for equality, dignity and respect, have been on strike for over seven weeks and have even been taken to the High Court by the hospital to try and prevent them effectively protesting for the same terms and conditions as other NHS workers. What many of these outsourced workers face is racial discrimination, which an Employment Tribunal recently found in the case of London’ Royal Parks cleaners. The government is actually intervening to oppose our claim because they are determined to defend the system which subjugates low paid and migrant workers and keeps them at the bottom of the pile. We’re proud to be a union many of these workers choose to join and which is the second family to many.”

For further information please contact the UVW communications team.

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk

Cristina: 07548 759340
Isabel: 07706 987443
Jim: 07749 765264

Notes for editors:

UVW is an anti-racist, member-led, direct action, campaigning trade union and we exist to support and empower the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly Black, brown and migrant workers in the UK. We fight the bosses through direct action on the streets and through the courts and demand that all members receive at least the London Living Wage, full pay, sick pay, dignity, equality and respect.

For more information on UVW’s organising at the MoJ, please click here

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