Photo: Cleaners victorious outside Cardiff Magistrates court. Credit: Seb Cooke
Cleaners working at the University of South Wales have won thousands of pounds compensation for unlawful deduction of wages dating back eleven months. The nine women, supported by their trade union, UNISON, are employed by KGB Cleaning to clean the university’s campus in the Atrium in Cardiff.
They formally worked at the Caerleon site up until its closure in July 2016. They were transferred to another site under an agreement that their travel time from Caerleon would be paid. However, after a after a two-day hearing, an employment tribunal found KGB Cleaning guilty of unlawful deduction from wages and breaching the national minimum wage when it reneged on this agreement in March 2017.
UNISON has said the University of South Wales will be reflecting on whether it is morally acceptable to outsource cleaning to contractors who exploit women in the local community. The trade union has called for all cleaning to be taken in-house by the University.
Seb Cooke, UNISON Cymru Wales organiser said,
“Today a group of low paid women being exploited have stood up to their multi-million pound employer and won. KGB Cleaning has unlawfully deducted the wages of staff who are earning just the minimum wage. These workers have shown that even if all the odds are stacked against you, by remaining united in your trade union, you can be victorious.”
Dan Beard, UNISON branch secretary at the University of South Wales said,
“Cleaners ensure the campus is pristine in their early morning shifts and finishing before students and staff arrive. Had the university not outsourced cleaning work, those workers would today benefit from decent wages and conditions of service. The tribunal decision will tarnish the reputation of KGB Cleaning and raises moral questions on outsourcing. This can be put right by bringing the cleaning contracts immediately in-house.”
In the past, cleaners at the university have told UNISON 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.
Notes for editors
- All the cleaners were originally contracted to work at the University of South Wales (USW) site in Caerleon, Newport where most of them live. USW announced in January 2016 that the Caerleon site was being shut. In July 2016 the company told them that rather than being made redundant they would instead be redeployed to the Atrium in Cardiff. The cleaners objected as they have a contractual clause which states that they can’t be moved more than 10 miles from their designated place of work. The company got around this by saying that they would transported to and from the Atrium from Caerleon and would be paid for their time in transit. The cleaners agreed to the change on that basis.
- That was then the arrangement for 7 months until the Company announced in February 2017 that they were withdrawing the agreement on paid travel time. The cleaners objected to this through the grievance process but their grievance was rejected and, in fact, the company have denied that there was ever an agreement in place for travel time.
- The cleaners therefore brought a claim contending that they should be paid for time in transit and that the company’s failure to do is an unlawful deduction from wages and in breach of the National Minimum Wage.
- UNISON has long campaigned for the cleaners to receive the Foundation Living Wage, something endorsed by Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens. Some of KGB’s cleaners have seen only one pay rise – of just four pence an hour – in nine years of employment.
Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397