Exclusive: Royal Opera House cleaners win London living wage


Jim Armitage
Thursday 06 February 2014 13:00

Cleaners at the Royal Opera House have won a long-fought battle to get paid the London Living Wage in a move which will secure them a near 30 per cent pay rise.

Opera House managers and their cleaning contractor Mitie staved off the threat of embarrassing staff protests at the prestigious Bafta awards ceremony being held there later this month. The 50 cleaners and porters will see their pay rise from £7 an hour to the London Living Wage of £8.80.

Unite union’s regional officer Carolyn Simpson said: “It’s astounding that we had to fight for workers at one of the world’s most prestigious venues just to get them a living wage. The world’s elite can pay hundreds of pounds for a ticket but the bosses resisted paying cleaners and porters the bare minimum it takes to get by in London.”

The deal now means that, under new chief executive Alex Beard, all staff at the prestigious opera house are now on the London Living Wage or above. Beard was hired from the Tate last year on a salary of £250,000.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has been a keen advocate of the London Living Wage, said the agreement was “very good news,” adding: “more employers are realising that the London living wage builds dedicated, motivated workforces and ensures that hard-working people who contribute to London's success can enjoy a decent standard of living.”

Unite has been negotiating to get union recognition for Mitie’s Opera House workers for the past year, and succeeded in January. It is also now seeking pay rises for cleaners at the British Museum employed by the contractor Carillion.

Unions and City Hall have been trying to persuade other big employers across the capital to move workers on to the living wage, which is set independently and updated annually.

An Opera House spokesman said: “I can confirm the negotiations have been concluded.”

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