28 September 2022 at 11:00:00
This Friday 30th September 2022, the cleaners and porters at the ROH will commence a day of strike action over their pay and working conditions. The picket line will take place from midday to 8pm, with a rally at 4pm
Cleaners and porters at the Royal Opera House (“ROH”) announce a day of strike action
This Friday 30th September 2022, the cleaners and porters at the ROH will commence a day of strike action over their pay and working conditions. The picket line will take place from midday to 8pm, with a rally at 4pm.
The Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (“CAIWU”) represents 25 of the cleaners and porters at the ROH. The cleaners and porters are employed by DOC Cleaning Ltd ("DOC"), to whom the ROH has outsourced its cleaning. Negotiations have been ongoing with DOC since CAIWU first wrote to Alex Beard (CEO of the ROH) on 22nd April 2022. Despite lengthy negotiations and protests throughout the summer, there has been no meaningful movement by DOC on the key demands put forward by the cleaners and porters. Meanwhile, the ROH continues to hide behind their subcontractor and take no ownership or responsibility for the situation – despite DOC maintaining that any significant movement requires authorisation by the ROH.
The obstinacy of DOC and the inability of the ROH to confront its own bad working practices has meant that the cleaners and porters have been forced to commence strike action this Friday. The demands of the cleaners and porters are as follows:
1. Contractual Sick Pay on the same terms and conditions as the security guards and other outsourced workers. Those other workers are in receipt of 12 weeks’ contractual sick pay, whereas the cleaners and porters currently receive only Statutory Sick Pay.
2. 12% employer's pension contribution. The current employer pension contribution is 3%, but there is a ROH pension scheme which "in-house" employees are entitled to.
3. 7 additional days of annual holiday and a system entitling employees to an additional day of leave for every subsequent year worked after 5 years of employment. The cleaners and porters are currently in receipt of 24 days holiday entitlement plus bank holidays.
The ROH continues to operate a tiered structure to its workforce. Staff that are employed directly by the ROH have access to a host of benefits, which include membership of the ROH pension scheme, special arrangements for healthcare including a health cash plan for employees and healthcare support for performers, a subsidised canteen and coffee bar, flexible working, family friendly policies, childcare vouchers scheme, and access to the ROH benevolent fund which provides confidential support and assistance.
On the other hand, the outsourced workers – the cleaners and porters – are in receipt of the statutory minimum when it comes to their health and pensions. Given that all the cleaners and porters are from migrant ethnic minority backgrounds, this divide smacks of structural racism within the operational workings of the ROH.
The ROH has received at least £91million of public funds over the last three years through the National Lottery and Arts Council England. It is galling that none of that has been passed on to employees’ salaries, including those of cleaning staff and porters, to assist in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and other illnesses. Currently, under SSP, cleaners and porters are not incentivised to stay at home if feeling unwell: if the cleaners and porters don’t work, then they don’t get paid.
“The industrial action is due to the end of all possibilities of negotiation, which DOC and the ROH have refused regarding the terms we proposed in order to level up our working conditions to something decent. Sadly, there has been nothing else left for us to do than strike.” (Rafael Borges, a cleaner at the ROH)
“We are suffering from the cost-of-living crisis and are fighting for fairer conditions.” (Patricia Pelaez, a cleaner at the ROH)
“The Royal Opera House has received millions in public money as well as millions in donations, and it is a disgrace that it only gives good working conditions to some of the people who work there. It is time to stop this unbridled greed.” (Alberto Durango, CAIWU General Secretary)
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