Topshop cleaners complain that they are being paid ‘poverty wages’

A union is planning a protest for Saturday

A trade union representing cleaners is threatening to protest outside Topshop’s flagship London Oxford Street store this weekend.

BuzzFeed, which broke the story, reports that United Voices of the World, has called for a protest on Saturday afternoon. The argument is over the living wage. UVW bills itself as a “grassroots trade union comprised almost entirely of low-paid migrant workers”.

“Come and join UVW for a mass protest at Topshop flagship store in Oxford Street demanding a Living Wage for all workers, both the outsourced cleaners and the in-house sales assistants,” its organisers write in the Facebook event. The protest is slated for 3pm on Saturday. More than 300 people are currently attending.

The cleaners allegedly affected are not employed directly by Topshop – they are contracted by Britannia Services Group. However, those involved argue that the retailer has both an obligation to support them, and the power to enforce fairer wages.

Maria Susana Benavidez Guaman, a cleaner at the central London store, has launched a change.org petition, and writes: “I am paid a poverty wage for the work I do and am simply asking Topshop and Brittania Services Group to pay me a living wage so I can provide a decent life for me and my family”.

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The change.org petition

At the time of writing the petition has more than 1400 signatures.

BuzzFeed says that the cleaners at the store are apparently paid £6.75/hour – which is 5p more than the minimum wage – and that, according to Britannia, this will rise on 1 April, to £7.50 an hour. But they want to be paid the London Living Wage.

The Living Wage Foundation sets this at £9.40 an hour, a figure calculated according to the “basic cost” of living in the capital. The London Living Wage is voluntary: employers can sign up to it but are not obliged to do so. But the cleaners and UVW wish that Britannia would do so and that Topshop would encourage them to do so.

“Topshop is a vast company… If your profits depend on your workers being in poverty, that’s not a model for the modern age,” Petros Elia, the general secretary of United Voices of the World, told BuzzFeed.

Britannia’s Managing Director, David Shaw, argued that “everyone has a right to ask for money, but we have to tailor the ship – times are hard. We pay the best we can.” Shaw told BuzzFeed that only two cleaners out of a contracted workforce of 51 had signed up to the union, while Elia insists this number is in the “double figures”.

The Tab has contacted both Topshop and Britannia Services for comment.

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