Just in: Cleaners call for Covent Garden strike over unpaid wages

Just in: Cleaners call for Covent Garden strike over unpaid wages


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2014

Cleaners and porters at the Royal Opera House, who last month won the right to a London Living Wage, are now calling for strike action over unpaid wages. Some are owed back-pay since October. Press release below.


Written on the Skin – opera by George Benjamin




Independent Workers Union (IWGB) Cleaners And Facilities Branch


The Independent Workers Union (IWGB) is stepping up its campaign for justice for outsourced workers at the Royal Opera House employed by contractors MITIE and the Company of Cooks Ltd.

Porters and cleaners are set to ballot again for strike action, they are furious that having ended a dispute with MITIE on 3rd February 2014 which won them the London Living Wage, they have found themselves going for months paid-short in their wages. One shift alone being owed over four thousand pounds in pay since October 2013!

Already on poverty pay, one cleaner was left so penniless that they could not pay for their child’s school dinner, others struggling to get to work. The situation is exacerbated by the refusal of the employer to recognise the IWGB, which has a membership of almost all of the cleaners and porters at the Royal Opera House.

MITIE are fully aware of the high IWGB membership yet have chosen to deny a democratic voice to the workforce. IWGB had repeatedly offered to have its membership checked by ACAS. The demand for recognition has been echoed in Parliament in Early Day Motion 1066 tabled by socialist John McDonnell MP, and supported by 25 MP including a Tory Sir Peter Bottomley MP – calling for the “the chosen union of the workers to be recognised and that the workforce to be treated with respect and dignity.” IWGB is due to serve formal notice of a strike ballot and having seen a 100% yes vote in a previous ballot is confident of the result.



‘Zero Hour’ Contract Nightmare at ROH The curtain has been raised on a second poverty scandal at the Royal Opera House, this time of the workers employed by the Company of Cooks Ltd. The catering company took over the running the restaurants and bars at the Royal Opera House in April 2010 in a deal worth £52 million. But the workers who include kitchen porters, bar attendants, waiters and customer assistants have been left in on ‘variable hours’ contracts and poverty wages.

Some earn a mere £6.50 per-hour far beneath the London Living Wage of £8.80 per-hour, all other workers at the Royal Opera House earn as a minimum. The IWGB has submitted a formal claim to Mike Lucy Chief Executive of Company of Cooks Ltd demanding its workers be are paid the London Living Wage of £8.80 per-hour set by the Greater London Authority as the minimum wage needed to meet basic living expenses in London. IWGB has further complained that despite the fact workers are obliged to work set hours they remain insecure and uncertain of their long-term employment position due to being on what are in fact zero hour contracts. The IWGB has demanded all workers be issued with permanent contracts of employment, with recognised full continuity of employment. Our members have given many years of service to the Royal Opera House, through your company and its predecessor yet they have remained trapped in conditions of in-work poverty and uncertainty, which we considers requires urgent remedy.