Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Winning the Living Wage at the Royal Opera House

The Independent Workers Union (IWGB) confirmed today that porters and cleaners working for MITIE at the Royal Opera House have secured a landmark victory in their fight for workplace justice that will lift them out of the poverty trap. 

Workers at the Royal Opera House have overwhelmingly accepted an agreement with the facilities company MITIE which guarantees all porters and cleaners receive the London Living Wage of £8.80 per-hour.

The workers voted by a 100% margin to strike during the BAFTA awards on 16 February. Their campaign has won widespread support. Award winning director Ken Loach issued an appeal for support demanding “No-one should cross your picket lines”. The actors' union Equity and the Musicians Union wrote to the Royal Opera in support of the IWGB members. Glenda Jackson MP joined 25 other MPs signing Early Day Motion 919 tabled by John McDonnell MP in support of the workers.

LEAP chair John McDonnell MP said: 
“This is a tremendous victory for the IWGB workers and it sends out a message to all low pay employers that we are not willing to tolerate poverty pay and we're coming for you."
The Royal Opera saw a series of mass protests by trade unionists and students who invaded the premises demanding justice. Following failed talks at ACAS, the Royal Opera offered to pay the current Living Wage in April 2015. The IWGB made a counter offer for:1 February 2014 the pay rate of £8.00 will apply; and from 1 April 2014 the pay rate of £8.80 will apply.  

The pay rise from 1 April represents a 25% increase from the cleaners' current pay of £7 per hour, but this increase (including employer national insurances costs) represents just 0.15% of the Royal Opera House's annual income. That's the equivalent of adding just 24p a ticket to every performance.  

With the union campaign escalating MITIE and Royal Opera House finally agreed to the settlementChris Ford IWGB General Secretary said: 
“IWGB pays tribute to the courage and determination of our members. Combined with the solidarity of the labour movement, of students and youth, we have secured this fantastic victory. In five months we have gone from arrogant disdain by the employers to win the first pay rise in three years for these cleaners and porters. It is an example to all workers struggling to live at present.”

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