Organising migrant agency cleaners: a new challenge

The fact that commercial cleaning staff, who are usually women and migrant workers, are being exploited at work is not news anymore, in fact it has been in the news many times.

We learned that people complain of being frequently mistreated by employers, usually agencies, who often ignore obligations to provide holiday and sick pay, or workers are even experiencing underpayment or non-payment of their wages, not to mention the fact that they have to work long hours to fulfill their quota.

Since 2014, the year we launched the “Employment Rights Campaign”, we conducted an intensive outreach campaign in the most vulnerable Eastern European communities to support people with their issues at work. Having supporting Eastern European migrant workers for many years now, we have key knowledge and insight of the problems Eastern European agency workers face at work.

We were confirmed that agency workers are one of the most vulnerable groups on the labour market. Agency workers in the cleaning industry are especially affected by exploitation and bad working conditions and proved to require more intensive support in enforcing their rights.

In light of this, we decided we would need to focus on this particular type of workers, and in January this year we have started our new project, “Organising Migrant Workers”. The new, Trust for London funded project aims to organise and support Eastern European cleaners, in order to improve their working conditions.

Our extensive work in safeguarding workers rights has proven that there is a large group of Eastern European agency workers who do not know their rights and where to seek information and advice in case of any problems related to employment. They work long hours (often 6-7 days per week) so they are not able to seek any support in person.

This is why we want to take our support where is needed, in the workplace. We will outreach intensively as well as organising events and workshops for Eastern European migrants in London,  focusing on agency workers’ employment rights and give them tools to enforce them.

Our project will also involve provision of individual advice as well as education in relation to people’s employability skills.

We will also liaise with employment agencies, corporate clients and relevant bodies e.g. Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and GLAA in order to promote good practice within the sector.

We wish to stop the exploitation of Eastern European cleaners. London works on migrant workers, cleaners having a really important role in the day to day business life in London. We believe that time has come for EE agency workers to have a say in how their future in this great city is going to look like.