Topshop: Pay your cleaners the living wage
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My name is Maria Susana Benavidez Guaman. I'm a 40 year old single mother with 3 children aged 3, 5 and 11 and I’m contracted to work as a cleaner at Topshop's flagship store in Oxford Street. I am paid a poverty wage for the work I do and am simply asking Topshop and Britannia Services Group to pay me a Living Wage so I can provide a decent life for me and my family.
I am originally from Ecuador but had to leave after the banking crisis of 1998 which left me and millions of others destitute. I then moved to Madrid where I opened my own shop selling food. However, when the financial crisis hit Spain I was once again left unemployed and destitute and this time came to London with my children in 2009.
From 1st April the minimum wage is going up to £7.20. The government are calling it the 'living wage', but it’s just a minimum wage with a new name. The real living wage is currently £9.40 per hour and is based on minimum income standards methodology and takes account of real living costs for essential goods and services.
Although I am not directly employed by Topshop, they have the power to ensure me and my colleagues are paid a living wage. Topshop is the flagship brand of the Arcadia Group which is owned by billionaire Philip Green. In its Code of Conduct Topshop claim they "fully subscribe to the concept of the "living wage." I’m asking Philip Green to stand by these words and include everyone working at Topshop in his promise, including the cleaners.
People say it’s not possible to give cleaners the same rights as their directly employed staff because they are contracted by another firm. But just last year a group of cleaners campaigned with their union United Voices of the World to get the auction house Sotheby’s to insist on their contractors paying their cleaners the living wage. People power helped make that happen. It will work for us too if we get enough support.
My wage is simply not enough for me or my colleagues to live on. After rent, travel and child care costs I am left in debt at the end of every month. I think we should be valued and recognised for the work we do because it is a tough job. We cannot get by with our poverty wages. The minimum they could do to recognise and value us is to pay us a Living Wage.
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