According to the publishers of the Daily Mail, DMG, The United Voice of the World (UVW) trade union has nothing whatsoever to do with a recent pay increase for migrant cleaners working in their offices.
UVW has been claiming a victory, because the cleaners – who are nearly all from the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America – will now be paid the London Living Wage. According to the UVW, they had been working for the minimum wage of £7.50 per hour, but will now be paid £10.20 per hour, an increase of about £5,000 per year for a full-time worker.
This raise came about after a UVW campaign which involved organising a protest and threatening strike action, and creating a petition which was signed by over 100,000 people. "This victory will therefore lift the cleaners out of the poverty which, up until now, the Mail has cruelly constrained them to languish in," said UVW.
"Clearly the threat of an all out cleaners' strike was too much for the Mail!" said UVW on Twitter. Not so, say DMG. A press officer told VICE: "Mitie [the outsourcing company that employs the cleaners] have reviewed the pay structure for cleaners working at our offices and those teams were informed, some time ago, about increases to their pay up to and, in some cases, beyond the London Living Wage. We are aware of claims being made by the group UVW, which is not a recognised union, and does not, as far as we can tell, represent any members of the Mitie team working at our offices."
Somewhat desperately, the Mail's PR guru also said that UVW is "not a trade union", but is in fact acting as a "pressure group" in this case. According to a government list of active trade unions, this is untrue: UVW is a certified trade union. Surely such a blatant falsehood is beneath the dignity of the publisher of the Daily Mail.
It's true that UVW is not a recognised trade union at Northcliffe House, but that’s because Mitie failed to voluntarily recognise it when approached. That could arguably say more about Mitie's attitudes towards unions as an employer than anything about UVW.
UVW are planning to take Mitie to the Central Arbitration Committee to sort out recognition.
Can UVW really be said to have nothing to do with the raise? UVW had contacted Mitie twice recently, demanding the London Living Wage for its members. The second time, they essentially put the company on notice, warning against "constraining the cleaners to strike", saying they hoped for "a swift and amicable resolution to this dispute". Both times they got no response.
UVW have also accused a Mitie manager of threatening its workers with being sacked should they ever go on strike. Mitie did not provide VICE with a comment about this.
I guess if you don’t bother to acknowledge a union claiming to represent your workers, it’s easy enough to write them out of the picture when you award a pay increase.
Mitie said, "We are pleased to confirm that our teams working at DMG media's site have been informed of a pay increase to at least, and in some cases, beyond the London Living Wage."
We’re left to assume that the raise was going to happen anyway, without concerted pressure from their workers or potential PR banana skins influencing the employers' decision. This is despite the fact that Mitie was going through a redundancy process for its Northcliffe House cleaners as recently as February, off the back of demands from DMG to decrease the cost of the contract by, according to UVW, £30,000. Neither DMG nor Mitie could comment on that. Maybe, like so many employers who like to shower workers in cash shortly after making cuts, they had a really quick change of heart for no particular reason?
If this show of benevolence was happening before UVW started making any noise about it, how come, when contacted by a journalist at politics.co.uk about their story, "Daily Mail's migrant cleaners preparing to strike for better pay" on the 22nd of February, DMG refused to confirm how much the cleaners were paid and declined to provide a comment? Neither DMG not Mitie provided a comment to VICE about that either.
With Daily Mail headlines of recent years including "Bank Chief: Foreign Workers Drag Down UK Wages" and "Mass migration 'will wreck the dream of a high-wage Britain'", it sure would be ironic if migrant cleaners had indeed managed to raise themselves out of poverty, only for their employer, the publisher of the Daily Mail, to deny they had any influence in their pay raise.
As Mail blowhard Richard Littlejohn would say: you couldn't make it up.