It takes the average Topshop cleaner about a week to earn enough money to buy a Topshop Boutique trench coat.
Low-wage workers and their supporters staged a protest on Saturday 12th March outside Top Shop’s Oxford Street flagship store in London, against being paid what they consider to be poverty wages. Their goal is to pressure Arcadia Group – the company that owns Topshop and recently reported an annual profit of over £250million – into paying cleaners and shop-floor staff the living wage: £9.40 in London and £8.25 elsewhere in the Britain.
In its Code of Conduct, Topshop's official line is to "fully subscribe to the concept of the 'living wage'."
One cleaner, Susana, told the press: "The supervisor used to call me 'donkey' in English. Probably because it was quite an unusual word and he didn't think I'd understand it," says Susana, a 40-year-old cleaner and single mum. "He also kicked a bucket at me, and that was the last straw." As a cleaner, Susana is contracted by company Britannia Services Group to work at Topshop.
Roberto has also been working as a cleaner for three and a half years, along with two other jobs. At a meeting held on Wednesday, he and other low-wage staff were offered £7.50 per hour by the contractor in a last-effort attempt to dissuade them from protesting on Saturday. "I spoke on behalf of my colleagues on the unfair distribution of hours," Roberto says. "Why do they hire new people when there are old people there who could have done more hours? Some people want the £7.50 but most were not happy; we know we could get more, and deserve more."