By New Worker correspondent
Workers who clean and maintain London’s world-famous Royal Parks are set to walk out on strike in protest at poverty wages, causing a major embarrassment for Buckingham Palace.
The cleaners, who scrub toilets and other public facilities in some of the capital’s most iconic green spaces – including Hyde Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens, all of which are hereditary possessions of the Crown and managed by the Government on behalf of the Queen – are currently paid just £8.21 per hour, well below the basic London Living Wage.
“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,” said Genevive Boohene, a Ghana-born Royal Parks cleaner. “We are denied occupational sick pay, many of us do not receive our legal entitlement to holidays, and managers ignore our suffering and concerns. Now we are coming together to change things for ourselves.”
The workers, who have been serving the Royal Parks for nearly 200 years between them, are fighting to be paid the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour – an independently calculated figure representing the minimum income that a worker in the capital needs to get by. They are also demanding occupational sick pay and full statutory holiday entitlement, to bring them in to line with the basic protections enjoyed by most UK workers.
Cleaning staff will ballot formally for strike action in two weeks’ time, after joining United Voices of the World (UVW) – a street union founded in 2014 to represent the mainly outsourced migrant workers of London and beyond. Having already racked up a series of high-profile victories against major companies and organisations in recent months, including Topshop, Chanel and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, UVW is now setting its sights on the Royal Parks, which manages over 5,000 acres of Royal parkland across the city.
The Royal Parks are used by approximately 80 million people per year and any strikes are likely to fall within the school summer holidays, when visitor numbers are at their highest. In a move that will pile further pressure on management, office staff at the Royal Parks who are represented by the PCS civil service union say they’ll back the cleaners’ action.