School of Geography

A chronology of the London living wage campaign 2001-2009

Date Events
November 2000 Retreat of TELCO leaders discussed common concerns and focused on poverty, privatisation and the challenges on people’s time. Discussed the experience of the living wage campaigns in the US and floated the idea.
January 2001 UNISON commissioned the Family Budget Unit to determine the living wage rate for London.
September 2001 Published Mapping Low Pay in East London, documenting the extent to which low paid workers are in the gap between the minimum and living wage, with very poor conditions of work. Launched at a conference held at Queen Mary, University of London.
November 2001 Public assembly of up to 1000 held at York Hall, Bethnal Green, attended by local MPs, officials from HSBC and John Monks (General Secretary of the TUC), who restated the case for a living wage.
December 2001 Occupied a branch of HSBC in Oxford Street to protest at the low pay and poor conditions of cleaners at the Canary Wharf site.
April 2002 Parliamentary hearing for the living wage campaign, held at the House of Commons with invited MPs and a guest speaker from Baltimore.
May 2002 At least 40 ISS workers, along with representatives from local mosques, churches, colleges and the media attended a meeting of the NHS Trust board at the Homerton Hospital, made a presentation and handed over a petition with 600 signatures from hospital staff.
May 2002 Attended AGM of HSBC to demand a meeting with the Chairman, Sir John Bond, to discuss contracting arrangements at Canary Wharf. TELCO activists had bought shares and were able to interrupt the meeting, asking for action.
June 2002 Meeting held with Sir John Bond (Chairman of HSBC) who rejected the idea of interfering in the market in order to pay cleaners more.
July 2002 UNISON/TELCO submitted a claim for improved conditions for staff working for the contractors ISS Mediclean and Medirest at 5 East London hospitals.
Autumn 2002 Living wage campaign supported by Billy Bragg’s tour, raising the profile and finance from gigs across the country.
November 2002 Held living wage march involving local schools along the Mile End Road before large public assembly at the People’s Palace, Queen Mary, University of London. Led by black Pentecostal churches from the area. Focused on the NHS and developing a relationship with the Mayor of London.
March 2003 Held academic conference at the London School of Economics to make the case for a living wage, drawing on US experience.
April 2003 Public rally of 200 contract workers involved in the East London claims held in Stratford, addressed by the General Secretary of UNISON and workplace activists, building for industrial action in pursuit of the claim.
May 2003 Public assembly of about 500 held in Stratford, to confirm support for a strike of contract staff in the hospitals. New aspect of the campaign also developed to work on better ethical standards in UK contracting practice.
May 2003 Demonstration outside and inside HSBC’s AGM, again putting pressure on the bank over contracting arrangements at Canary Wharf. Generated a lot of media attention and the pressure coincided with the appointment of a new Director from the US, who was to be paid £35 million.
June 2003 Improved offer accepted by contract staff at the Homerton and Mile End/St Clements Hospitals, to secure immediate improvements and parity with NHS conditions by 2006. Strike and large demonstration held to try and increase the wage level and improve the offer at Whipps Cross Hospital. Later offer made to Royal London contract staff.
September 2003 Discussion of plans to launch an initiative for socially responsible contracting with cleaning clients, the industry, unions and ethical investors, held at the DTI.
November 2003 Launch of Socially Repsonsible Contracting document at Portcullis House, Westminster. Chaired by John Cruddas MP, attended by Barclays, major banks, cleaning companies, ethical investors and MPs. Estimated to cost 30% more for contracts that meet standards.
February 2004 Barclays Bank agrees to new terms and conditions for contract cleaners employed at new HQ in Canary Wharf. Pay to rise to £6 an hour, 15 days paid sick and 8 extra days holiday. Access to the pension scheme also included. Reported by BBC Newsnight, good media coverage. Around this time, the T&G deployed two full-time union organisers to work at Canary Wharf.
May 2004 Mayoral Accountability Assembly, Westminster Central Hall, calls on all candidates to support the establishment of a Living Wage Unit to publish an annual living wage for the capital. Ken Livingstone, the successful candidate agrees. Barclays praised publicly at the meeting.
May 2004 OCS Cleaning announce a new package for staff at HSBC Canary Wharf (produced in negotiation with HSBC). Wage increase of 11% to £6.10 an hour, 8 extra days holiday and 10 days sick pay. Changing shift patterns to reduce night working and those doing nights to be paid 30% increase. Encouragement for training and career development. Invitation to join OCS pension scheme. Agreement made 2 weeks before HSBC AGM.
November 2004 COMPACT signed between London Citizens and the London Olympic Committee to endorse an ethical olympics. Agreement includes paying a living wage to contractors working on the Olympic construction and those employed during the events.
March 2005 The Living Wage Unit (GLA) publishes A Fairer London and announces poverty threshold wage of £5.80 an hour and a living wgae of £6.70 (including benefits and tax credits) for the capital. One in five workers found to be on less than the living wage. Mayor agrees to roll out the living wage to the GLA/TfL and to include it as a criteria in grant-giving process.
May 2005 General Election used as an opportunity to hold accountability assemblies with the main candidates in each constituency asking them to support a living wage along with other TELCO/London Citizens demands.
July 2005 London Citizens-QM Summer Academy project to research the pay and conditions of workers in other low paying sectors of the economy: care, hospitality, transport cleaning, office cleaning. Making the city work: low paid employment in London launched at South London Citizens Assembly.
August 2005 IPPR became the first third sector organisation to address the living wage for cleaners, and employ ethical cleaning company.
September 2005 T&G steps up its organising campaign in Canary Wharf. Living wage breakthrough at Deutsche Bank in the City. Followed by Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Citigroup at Canary Wharf, KPMG, PWC, RBS (mainly in 2006) in the City. Starts to move onto the underground network.
October 2005 Living wage organising effort started at Queen Mary, University of London with rally held to win improved conditions for KGB cleaners.
February 2006 Parity with NHS terms and conditions secured for contracted cleaners at Homerton and Whipps Cross hospitals (the latter only after more industrial action).
April 2006 Research published into impact of living wages paid to domestics at the Royal London Hospital, as staff brought in-house via a PFI deal in Summer 2005.
April 2006 Queen Mary declared to be the first living wage campus in the UK and campaign taken up at the London School of Economics.
May 2006 May day mass to honour migrant workers attracts up to 2000 people to Westminster Cathedral. Homily given by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor with call for regularisation, taken up by London Citizens rally outside. Founding of London Citizens Workers’ Association (LCWA).
May 2006 TELCO and London First organise conference for the industry, to discuss efforts to raise standards: Keeping London Clean and Well.
May 2006 GLA publishes A Fairer London updating the living wage figure to £7.05
July 2006 London Citizens and UNITE-HERE work together on hotel rising campaign to take the living wage to London’s hotel sector by targeting the Hilton group and Kensington Close. Mass action at Hilton Metropole to demand meeting with Howard Friedman, the President of Hilton International in the UK. Ongoing recruitment of workers to LCWA from LSE, Tate Modern and Hilton group.
September 2006 Draft Olympic delivery procurement policy found to have dropped commitment to a living wage. Rally held to target David Higgins, Chief Executive of Olympics Delivery Authority (ODA) for a meeting.
November 2006 Meetings held with Managers from Hilton Group about employment conditions.
November 2006 TELCO 10th Anniversary Assembly, Queen Mary announce plan to bring back cleaning in-house and exceed living wage demands; ODA promise to meet and discuss the living wage. Sir John Bond is honoured on stage for his willingness to work with TELCO to make improvements at HSBC, despite his initial hostility.
November 2006 T&G step up efforts for a zonal agreement for cleaning standards across Canary Wharf and the City, sign up ISS, OCS and Lancaster.
December 2006 LSE agree to significant improvements in the pay and conditions of cleaning staff. Following a transition period up to Summer 2009 all cleaners will earn the living wage, have 28 days holiday and sick pay.
January 2007 Lobby of ODA over living wage at the 2012 Olympic site.
March 2007 ODA publish procurement policy declares fully support for the London living wage. To abide by the legal requirements, the policy states that: “The ODA will ask its contractors if they would be prepared to adopt fair employment measures including the London living wage … [and this] will be taken into account when the ODA advertises contracts and considers tenders.”
March 2007 Macquarie Bank announce an agreement with their contractor Greencrest to pay a living wage and to provide 28 days holiday and sick pay. McGraw Hill also supports contractor Lancaster to pay a living wage.
April 2007 GLA announce new living wage of £7.20 an hour.
May 2007 Protest held at Canary Wharf to target Barclays who were paying well below the living wage. Talks agreed.
May 2007 Evidence gathered to make a case for a living wage at Food Partners, a sandwich factory in West London employing members of a Lithuanian Church in membership of TELCO.
June 2007 Lobby of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority to ensure living wage for cleaners – which was agreed.
July 2007 Barclays announce decision to pay over the living wage (£7.50 an hour) to all 1000 cleaners in London with immediate effect.
October 2007 Students at Trinity Catholic High School hold an Olympics Assembly at school with Dave Higgins (Chief Executive of the ODA) challenging him about workers interviewed at the Olympic site and NOT being paid a living wage. Action promised and later delivered.
October 2007 Hilton Group announce a decision to phase out the use of agencies to supply labour for their London hotels.
October 2007 Westway, developers of the White City Shopping Centre in West London agree to be the first living wage retail zone in the UK.
November 2007 Living wage employer awards given to Westway, Bioregional (South London), Barclays, Macquarie and PWC.
December 2007 Living wage employer awards given to Westway, Bioregional (South London), Barclays, Macquarie and PWC.
December 2007 Activists bridge the divide between rich and poor represented in Doris Salcedo’s installation Shibboleth in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern demanding that in-house and contracted staff get the living wage. Talks ongoing.
January 2008 Cleaners at Queen Mary, University of London move in-house with dramatically better terms and conditions of work.
April 2008 London Citizens’ Mayoral Assembly includes demand for candidates to support the London living wage: Boris Johnson agrees.
June 2008 SOAS governing body votes to pay living wage from September 2008. Contract changed from Ocean to ISS with union recognition for UNISON.
July 2008 Boris Johnson honours pre-election pledges and announces new living wage figure of £7.45. Summer Academy interns target Hyatt Andaz Hotel (Liverpool Street) and Hilton Group, triggering ongoing talks with both chains.
October 2008 Action outside the Departments for Work and Pensions and Children, Families and Schools demanding they honour a pledge on child poverty. Later secure ministerial agreement to pay living wage to those at DCFS, including subcontracted staff, from April 2009.
November 2008 At TELCO Assembly, directors from Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) announce that of 3000 workers on the Olympic site, only 134 are not paid the living wage. New contracts will all be living wage. Leader of Labour Group, Tower Hamlets Council also pledges support for the living wage.
December 2008 Protest outside Birkbeck College Governors meeting to demand a living wage – campaign still ongoing.
January 2009 Queen Mary reports on one year of a living wage and the impact of the move back in-house on cleaning standards and costs, reported in ‘The business case for the living wage: the story of the cleaning service at Queen Mary’.
March 2009 Birkbeck Governors agree to living wage for cleaning and catering staff (Ocean and Sodhexo).
March 2009 London Citizens and Unite the union (hotel workers’ branch) launch ‘Rooms for change: Putting London on track for the Olympics’ to link the hospitality sector to the pledge to create an ethical Olympics in 2012.
June 2009 Protest outside the British Hospitality Association lunch at Grosvenor Hotel with request to meet Bob Cotton (Chair), supported by Mayor Boris Johnson speaking at the event.
July 2009 Cleaning and catering staff at Birkbeck get £7.45 an hour with % in-line raises for other staff; no sick pay agreed but union recognition.
July 2009 BBC Newsnight report on violations of the NMW in the hotel sector – with support of LC - documenting cases of agency workers employed by Hotelcare Ltd and working at Ibis, Plaza and Holiday Inn Hotels. Inland Revenue start investigation.
October 2009 Trick or Treat action outside the Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions, Whitehall, in support of the living wage.
October 2009 Meeting with Health and Safety Officers from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Council to discuss risks faced by hotel workers.
November 2009 Linklaters announce decision to become living wage employer. Meeting with Low Pay Commission to look at violations of NMW due to agency work and piece rates in the hotel sector. Start gathering data for the HSE.
November 2009 Assembly called ‘The Citizens response to the economic crisis,’ held at the Barbican with a demand on the Corporation of London and City institutions to pay a living wage. Demand on national politicians to adopt the living wage in public procurement.