Cleaners say wages have increased but hours have been cut by management company
Cleaners at six HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) tax offices on Merseyside claim they are being denied the benefits of George Osborne’s National Living Wage.
Around 27 cleaners who work in offices in Bootle and Liverpool say that, while they have received an increase in their hourly pay rate since the Government’s new National Living Wage legislation became law in April, their employer has cut their hours to save money.
The cut in hours means their overall pay has not risen and they are no better off than they were when they were paid the old National Minimum Wage.
The cleaners are employed to clean HMRC offices by sub-contractor ISS.
The new National Living Wage rules require all employers to pay a minimum of £7.20 an hour, an increase of 50p on the former National Minimum Wage hourly rate of £6.70. In total 40 hours a week have been cut from cleaning rotas, saving £15,000 from the company’s wage bill, according to the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
The PCS argues that the dispute over the National Living Wage is deeply embarrassing for HMRC as it is responsible for enforcing the new legislation.
The PCS is currently balloting cleaning staff about possible strike action. The union claims that legislation governing the National Living Wage prevents employers from making detrimental changes to other terms and conditions to off-set the cost of the higher hourly pay rate.
Martin Kelsey, secretary of the PCS’ revenue & customs group, told the ECHO: “We believe there is a breach of Living Wage legislation here.
“We are seeking that ISS reverse that decision and people get the Living Wage without suffering detriment.
“Staff are finding themselves in a position where their hours are being reduced as a result of the legislation and the service to the taxpayer is also being reduced by the cut in service to HMRC.
“ISS should provide HMRC with the service they are contracted to provide and if that means as a result they have to pay more money, that’s something they are contracted to do.
“The PCS is also looking at the possibility of bringing a tribunal action against ISS to force the cleaning company to keep workers on their previous hours.
“HMRC is the enforcement body for the Living Wage. We have raised with HMRC our concerns about the enforcement body for the National Living Wage having as a sub-contractor somebody who we believe is in breach of that legislation.”
Mr Kelsey says HMRC has agreed to meet the PCS to discuss the issue.
The union remains hopeful that a solution can be found without the need for strike action. Mr Kelsey added: “We have low paid members of staff involved here and the last thing you would want is to have a financial impact on already low paid staff through industrial action.
“The people paying the price for it are the lowest paid people in their employment.”
ISS refused to comment but in a statement a HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC greatly appreciates the work cleaning staff do in our buildings. As cleaning staff are employed by an external contractor who set the terms and conditions of their employment, HMRC has no involvement in this process over their pay.”