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Regent’s Park cleaners fight ‘poverty pay’

Woman who has scrubbed toilets in Royal Parks for 24 years: 'I’m living a hand-to-mouth existence'

01 August, 2019 — By Tom Foot

ROYAL Parks cleaners who say they are living a “hand-to-mouth existence” because of poverty pay are preparing for strike action.

The cleaners, who scrub toilets in eight parks including Regent’s Park, are paid £8.21 per hour, below the London Living Wage of £10.55.

They are also demanding sick pay and holiday entitlement from the parks’ private contractor, VINCI.

Cleaner Genevive Boohene said: “I have worked at the Royal Parks for 24 years, but these poverty wages mean that, like many of my colleagues, I’m living a hand-to-mouth existence. Now we are coming together to change things for ourselves.”

The Royal Parks, a charity which manages the world famous parks on behalf of the Queen, said the pay is decided by its contractors.

But the United Voice of the World Union, which is representing the cleaners, said Royal Parks had to take responsibility for who it awards contracts to and how they operate.

Campaign organiser Petros Elia said: “The Royal Parks make much of their public mission to maintain the parks for the well-being of all who use them. Yet they are wilfully impoverishing their own hard-working cleaners who have been caring for these amazing green spaces on behalf of the general public for many, many years.”

The Royal Parks are used by approximately 80 million people a year, and any strikes are likely to fall within the summer holidays.

The cleaners also wash toilets in Hyde Park and St James’s Park.

A spokesman for VINCI said it paid the London Living Wage “wherever possible”, adding that the company had “recommended to and are working with The Royal Parks with regards to the adoption of the London Living Wage”.

He added that VINCI “always behaved responsibly”.

The Royal Parks said in a statement: “All staff employed by The Royal Parks are paid above the London Living Wage”, adding: “We aspire that all of our contractors pay their staff the London Living Wage, and are reviewing this for every contract that is coming to an end. At present this contract is managed by VINCI and this is a matter for them.”

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