The government’s ‘national living wage,’ being introduced in April, will see workers over 25 who earn the minimum wage receiving 50p more per hour. However, despite being employed to provide a service to the government department which enforces the wage, cleaners at HMRC will not see a financial benefit.
ISS Facility Services, who employ the cleaners as part of a multi-tier outsourcing contract, are looking to cut hours and possibly make redundancies in order to offset the wage cost.
The PCS union, which represents the cleaners, says that the cuts are being blamed on money being withheld by the company which sub-contracts to ISS. The cleaners were informed that Salisbury FM, who are contracted to provide cleaning services to HMRC and who pay ISS to provide cleaning staff, are refusing to pass on the money needed to increase wages.
PCS has written to HMRC, Salisbury and ISS in the hopes of determining the truth and to demand from all parties that the new rate is paid without any cuts or redundancies.
The union says that previous staffing cuts have led to a situation where the cleaners are already under-staffed and at risk of injury and ill-health due to being over-worked.
The 19-storey Triad building in Bootle, which is open seven days a week, employs just eleven part time cleaners. Recently, ISS failed a cleaning audit in the building and had to use overtime and bring in additional staff temporarily in order to pass the audit a second time around.
PCS has previously written to ISS and HMRC to demand staffing increases in order to reduce workloads, as well as a real Living Wage, occupational sick pay and more holidays for staff.
Phil Dickens, Bootle Taxes Branch organiser, said: “HMRC, as the body which enforces payment of the national minimum wage (including the new rate that is branded a living wage), should not be letting this happen right under their noses. Especially if the money for the new rate has been provided, as this would amount to the theft of public money by Salisbury.
“However, even while the matter is being resolved, we do not believe that a company such as ISS which has a multi-million pound global profit should reclaim this cost on the back of its lowest paid workers. Especially as a company which proudly brands itself as a Living Wage employer with the endorsement of the Living Wage Foundation.
“HMRC, Salisbury and ISS are all guilty of washing their hands of workers they all have a responsibility for. Public money is going into somebody’s back pocket while the service it’s supposed to pay for declines and the cost is taken out the backs of those providing that service. It’s the worst kind of exploitation.
“The workers who clean HMRC’s premises deserve far better. We are going to be campaigning and fighting hard for them to get it, but it would be a start if they were paid the new minimum wage increase without having to pay for it with cuts that make their jobs harder.”