Migrant workers who clean Vodafone’s head offices assembled at their flagship Oxford Street store on Saturday for a surprise protest demanding fair pay and proper sick pay.
The action came from cleaners represented by the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain, and marks an escalation in their ongoing campaign against Vodafone’s exploitation of outsourced workers.
Vodafone uses subcontractor Mitie to outsource their cleaners, meaning they don’t have the same legal obligations to give them basic rights or fair terms and conditions. As a result, cleaners work for poverty pay with no company sick pay, and report chronic overwork and victimisation.
Several cleaners have faced disciplinary action from subcontractor Mitie for turning down extra responsibilities beyond their job description, following sweeping redundancies of catering staff made during the pandemic.
The demands for sick pay and a dignified wage come after Vodafone made over €5 billion in profits in 2021, and paid its ex-CEO, Nick Read, over £4 million last year. Meanwhile subcontractor Mitie’s profits soared by an enormous 187% to £167 million, on the back of short-term COVID related contracts.
In 2022, cleaners won the London Living Wage at Vodafone buildings nationally, as well as the hiring of new staff to combat overwork, though they continue to face excessive workloads.
The workers organising at Vodafone are demanding London Living Wage + £1/hr, proper sick pay, and an end to other unfair treatment.
Walter Carbrera, a cleaner at Vodafone HQ said, “I’ve worked as a cleaner at Vodafone for over 8 years. I risked my life cleaning throughout the pandemic for £8.93 an hour, and had to take 10 days off without proper sick pay when I got COVID-19.
“We need better sick pay. We need to be able to request improvements in our workplaces without fear of intimidation or pressure from Mitie.
“We need management to replace cleaners who leave or take holidays, so we’re not faced with excessive workloads. They must offer us solutions instead of empty promises. It’s time for fewer meetings and more action from both Mitie and Vodafone.”
Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary of the IWGB said, “Vodafone pretending concern for employee welfare whilst exploiting their outsourced migrant workers for poverty pay is shameless hypocrisy. They make billions in profit but deny their cleaners’ calls for basic rights like a proper sick pay.
“Mitie management have attempted to shut down the workers fighting back by victimising them and threatening them with blacklisting, but we will campaign alongside them until they get justice.”