Published on October 16, 2013 | by Ruby Sigurdardottir


Cleaners’ wages unfit for ‘dirtiest job there is’

Untidy paper-strewn toilet stall with seat up

Would you be happy to be paid the minimum wage to clean this up? [Rosa Hardaker]

UAL’s student officers are joining forces with trade union GMB on a campaign for cleaning staff at the university to receive the living wage.

The cleaners, who are employed by an external contractor, currently earn the lower minimum wage for what SUARTS President Shelly Asquith calls “the dirtiest job there is”.

The living wage is deemed by many — including the Mayor of London — as the absolute minimum workers need to earn in order to have a decent life.

It is currently set at £8.55 per hour for those working within Greater London and £7.45 for the rest of the UK, but is set to rise on November 4.

“Cleaners have to work ridiculous hours for a wage that is impossible to live on,” Asquith said. “Many work two or three jobs and don’t have time to see their children.”

Asquith says that university management has been supportive towards the campaign so far: “We wrote to the vice-chancellor and received a really positive response. The university supports living wage and they are working with us. They want to put wages up. In fact, all in-house staff at UAL are already paid a living wage.”

UAL cleaners are outsourced, meaning UAL has no control over the wage paid by the external contractor, Bouygues Energy & Services. A representative from the company said that he was “not really aware” of the Living Wage campaign, and had no opinion on the matter.

All UK companies are legally required to pay their staff the minimum wage, which is £6.31 per hour for workers over 21. Unlike the minimum wage, employers can choose to pay the living wage on a voluntary basis. As of September 2013, just 277 UK employers support this opt-in scheme.

Approximately one in five people working in Britain are paid less than the recommended living wage. To draw attention to this issue, SUARTS will be revealing an art installation at 10.30am on November 1 at the Blueprint Bar in High Holborn, in time for Living Wage Week (November 4-9).

To find out more about the Living Wage Campaign, go to or



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