why does unite employ ISS at its HQ?

A number of migrant cleaners employed by cowboy cleaning contractor ISS in the City of London have approached The Commune, concerned about the fact that their own union UNITE has its offices cleaned by… ISS.

Well known for terrible conditions and sacking workers who tried to organise on the London Underground and elsewhere, ISS was also complicit in the immigration raid and deportation of SOAS campus cleaners last June.

One such cleaner in the City wrote to UNITE asking why they employ ISS, and received this remarkable response…

Hi Ricardo,

Responding to your above mentioned question I will like to make these few comments. Starting with are you are aware that one can only know the stuff one’s enemy is made of only through engagement?

Yes, Unite employs ISS at its headquarters but yet makes sure that ISS does not pay below the LLW [London Living Wage] to its employees at Unites office. So now if Unite has insisted that ISS does not pay below LLW in its building and ISS has accepted then unite can build on that and lobby so that ISS does not pay less LLW in other buildings.

To the campaign J4CC [Justice for Cleaners] itself! Justice for Cleaners does not only target the cleaning companies but also their clients – the buildings/banks. You can therefore imagine how huge the fight or task is. Wages of cleaners are not paid by the cleaning companies but indirectly the clients (the buildings/banks).

It sometimes come to a scenario that the client pay enough to the cleaning company to accommodate for the LLW but the cleaning company sits on it. In the other way round some clients are so stingy that they do not pay the contractors enough to enable them pay up to LLW. This is why in pushing for the LLW in a particular building both the client and the cleaning company are attacked.

In the city and at Canary Wharf some banks are so generous that in their buildings cleaners received more than the LLW. It’s all because the cleaning companies of these particular buildings pass on the generosity of their clients to its employees, the cleaners.

But don’t forget that banks are independent and some banks are richer than others and will be able to offer more whilst others are rich yet they are not willing to pay even the LLW. This is why it’s difficult to achieve a London wide LLW at ago.

Ricardo, my advice is if there is a building some where that ISS cleans but our colleagues (cleaners) earn less than the LLW then it is the duty of you and me to educate them to get organised and finally put up a fight. But all these could be achieved only through a well educated and properly organised under a Union – Unite.

As an insider, a lay officer and a Branch Secretary of Branch 2007(J4CC) I can boldly say that the Justice for Cleaners Campaign has been a success and it has at least changed the living condition of some cleaners in the city and Canary Wharf. The campaign is not hailed only in the London but in the whole of UK and some parts of the world. But by hailing the success of the campaign does not mean that there have not been hitches, setbacks and failures.  In all the success attained outnumbers the failure or setbacks encountered. I hope you will agree with me.

Kwasi Agyemang-Prempeh

Branch Secretary

BLE-2007-Unite the Union

2 thoughts on “why does unite employ ISS at its HQ?

  1. Wow! Some banks are ‘generous’ to their cleaners are they? Rather than stealing slightly less from them in slightly less low pay.
    And some can ‘afford’ to pay more than others can they? Their directors must be living in poverty too I suppose.
    What a masterpiece of an excuse for an inexcusable policy.


  2. Kwasi Agyemang-Prempeh from Ghana. You should be ashamed of your self. As a Ghanaian myself a find this very appalling. It is about the ethics of engaging the organisation not that sort of Tokenistic gesture of ensuring that about three workers who clean your offices are well paid while thousands suffer in other places and using that as a justification for engaging ISS.


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