#Conservative Britain: Bullying, low wages and no paid holiday: five British cleaners on their jobs

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Contracted cleaners at the Foreign Office have been disciplined by their employer after demanding the London living wage. Zoe Williams reports on an industry that routinely exploits disadvantaged workers, while five cleaners share their stories

Katy Rojas … made redundant by Interserve. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

‘Our contractor, Interserve, has assured us that no one has been made redundant as a result of a letter asking for an increase in pay. From April 2016, all Interserve staff will benefit from the new mandatory national living wage.” So read a statement from the Foreign Office, after the news that 14 cleaners who had written to the foreign secretary Philip Hammond, asking for the London living wage (£9.15 an hour) when they are currently paid £7.05, had faced disciplinary action from Interserve afterwards.

The extraordinary thing about the commercial cleaning industry in the UK is not how many existing worker rights are routinely disregarded, nor is it the extent of the casual discrimination, nor how much energy goes into denying cleaners holiday and sick pay. It is signally: how many reputable, upstanding institutions will employ people at the minimum wages. The FCO is happy to parrot what it is told by Interserve, and, says Jason Moyer-Lee, the president of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), there are plenty of companies that behave as badly or even worse.

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