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John Lewis Cleaners Miss Out On Bonus and Living Wage

7th March 2013, 13:22

John Lewis Cleaners Miss Out On Bonus and Living Wage

John Lewis staff today celebrated a 17% bonus as they shared a £200m bonus pot. But 3000 of their cleaning staff across the country have been left out in the cold. They are paid just minimum wage and struggle to get by. Campaigners at the flagship store called for cleaners to share in the firm’s success and receive a Living Wage.

Members of the community alliance Citizens UK celebrated the bonus announcement at John Lewis Oxford Street this morning by handing out pieces of the cake. As partners arrived to hear the bonus announcement, members of community groups, churches, mosques and universities had one question - will the cleaners get a slice of the cake too? While most staff at the store enjoyed a 17% bonus the cleaners were simply there to clean up the party. 

John Lewis has been in negotiation with Citizens UK about the Living Wage for almost 2 years. John Lewis maintains that the bonus and discounts package they offer Partners is equivalent to the Living Wage. However cleaners at the firm are outsourced and therefore do not receive Partnership benefits.

Last year John Lewis undertook a review to consider whether to take the cleaners back in house. In November they ruled the cleaners were not Partners. A cleaner, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke out at the event this morning, saying the decision not to make them partners was a real blow. Especially coming at the start of the Christmas period, when they were expected to put in extra hours to make sure the store was in tip top condition for Christmas shoppers.

Two campaigners dressed as the founders of the John Lewis Partnership, John Spedan Lewis, and his wife Sarah Beatrice Lewis, made speeches on the founding principles of partnership and the importance of inclusion and democracy. When John Spedan Lewis gifted the Partnership to staff he stipulated that all staff ‘present and prospective’ should benefit from the shared success of the business. He even introduced a ‘living wage’ for partners in 1924, higher than the market rate.

As the bonus figure was announced the founders were joined by two campaigners dressed like the snowmen that featured in the 2012 John Lewis Christmas advert. The campaigners took a moment of quiet reflection, as the song the Power of Love was played over a PA system. The Power of Love featured as the soundtrack to the John Lewis 2012 Christmas advert, which cost the company £6 million and was filmed on location in New Zealand.

John Lewis has agreed that their HR Manager will meet with London Citizens to discuss their call for the Living Wage to be included in the firm’s procurement process.

Neil Jameson Chief Executive of London Citizens said:

“We are calling on John Lewis to do the right thing and show the Power of Love to their cleaners. We want John Lewis to stick by the principles of the founder of the partnership, John Spedan Lewis. Our members are big fans of John Lewis, many of us shop here, and we want to shop in a business that pays the Living Wage.” 

A Citizens UK spokesperson dressed as Sarah Beatrice Lewis said:

“We believe that a responsible business should behave like an affectionate, intelligent family; this has included paying salaries during the war, subsidising disabled servicemen and women after the war and ensuring that every single worker who helps our business grow is suitably recognised and rewarded for their efforts and hard work.

There must be just distribution of gain. Distribution to each in proportion to their true earning power. Not equal distribution but more equal distribution.

This gift of partnership, this experiment in industrial democracy, was handed by my husband to all partnership workers. And by all workers we mean all people who contribute to the success of the company, including the cleaners.”

A Citizens UK spokesperson dressed as John Spedan Lewis said:

“It may seem strange to some of you that I am here again today. I have come back to remind you of some of the core principles which shaped the formation of this partnership model.

I am not a blind idealist; of course there will always be wealth inequalities due to differences in ability and energy but the modern business world risks allowing the market to be too greedy at its peril.

As one group of employees celebrates a windfall, another simply sweeps away the remains of the party. This is not and cannot be right. I ask you to join with me, in the spirit of cooperation in which I founded the partnership, to call on my successors to implement the Living Wage now.”