Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Jo Stevens MP, has given her support to cleaners at the University of South Wales campaigning to be paid the ‘real’ Living Wage of £8.45 per hour. Employed by KGB Cleaning Services, staff currently receive £7.20 per hour, which they say forces them to live in poverty despite working as hard as they can. Some KGB cleaners have seen only one pay rise – of just four pence an hour – in nine years of employment.
The cleaning staff are organised by UNISON and work at four sites on University of South Wales campuses in Newport, Treforest, Merthyr Tydfil and the Atrium in Cardiff. They are one of the only groups of workers at the university who do not benefit from the Living Wage.
They have told UNISON they are exploited and are “treated like dirt”. “KGB has brought me to a low point”, said one. They feel as though they “are just about living”, unable to go out socially and constantly worried about spending and bills to pay. They are ashamed they must rely on the financial support of adult children or partners to get by. UNISON has described the university as hypocritical for boasting it is a Living Wage employer whilst the very people who keep it clean struggle in poverty.
Jo Stevens MP said,
“These low paid, predominantly female staff work incredibly hard ensuring the campus, part of which is in my constituency, is pristine. They help present the university in the best possible light to current and potential students, staff and visitors from all over the world. KGB can certainly afford not to pay poverty wages. The university should be ensuring that all their supplier contracts include the requirement to pay the real Living Wage. It’s time for them both to do the right thing.”
A spokesperson for UNISON said,
“Cleaners have complained there is no job satisfaction and a terrible atmosphere created by KGB, which does not even know cleaners’ names and doesn’t care about its staff, only the money to be made. Had the university not outsourced cleaning work, those staff would today benefit from decent wages. KGB has a multi-million pound turnover and also the university has the money to ensure any company can pay the cleaners properly. We urge students, teaching staff and members of the public to get behind our campaign signing our petition https://www.change.org/p/real-living-wage-for-usw-cleaners-now”
The cleaners have drawn inspiration from the successful push for a Living Wage at IKEA, where the managing director recently said paying staff £8.45 per hour has been crucial to improving the business.
UNISON has also criticised KGB’s practice of not listing the amount of hours worked on staff pay slips. Workers are told only the total sum, making it more difficult to check if they are being paid correctly.
KGB’s contract is up for renewal in August this year.