HSBC revalues its 'invisible' night workers

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The Independent Online

HSBC, on the eve of its annual meeting, has lived up to its advertising slogan as "the world's local bank" and agreed to pay a living wage to the "invisible night cleaners" at its Canary Wharf headquarters.

Its contract cleaners will now get an average of £6.40 an hour, compared with £5 an hour at present, and workers will, for the first time, get 10 days' sick pay and a contribution to a pension scheme. They will also get eight additional days as holiday a year, giving them a total of 28 days plus bank holidays.

As a result of the climbdown, Abdul Durrant, a cleaner, will today stand up at the meeting to thank Sir John Bond, the chairman of HSBC, for his change of heart. Mr Durrant and Telco, a London charity that has campaigned to increase the pay and benefits of workers in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, in which Canary Wharf is based, were planning another protest unless a deal was struck.

At HSBC's meeting last year, Mr Durrant embarrassed Sir John over his £2m pay packet when he revealed himself as one of the bank's "invisible" night cleaners. "I don't operate a computer. I operate a mop and bucket. I am supposed to stay invisible, working overnight. I am unable to provide my children with all that they need. I am asking you for a living wage so that I can have the same dignity as ordinary people," he said.

Pressure on HSBC to improve conditions for its contract staff increased this year when its rival, Barclays, agreed a fair wage and sick-pay deal with Telco.

Before Barclays moved to its new headquarters at Canary Wharf, it sought an agreement with Telco and in January agreed to pay its contract staff £6 an hour.

Sir John had always ducked responsibility on the pay issue, saying it was up to the firm that contracted the cleaners to set their pay. The extra money from HSBC will go to OCS, the cleaning firm that contracts cleaning staff.