Food by VICE

Wimbledon Housekeepers Say Their Pay Is So Low They Have to Eat Discarded Food

Some members of the catering staff make "well below" what is considered an acceptable living wage in London.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jul 16 2018, 8:53pm

Photo via Flickr user Carine06 

Over the weekend, Novak Djokovic won his fourth Wimbledon men’s singles title, while on the women’s side, Angelique Kerber won her first. By the time they’d changed out of their all-white outfits, wrung out their wristbands, and walked out of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) for the final time, they’d each banked £2.25 million ($2.94 million) in prize money.

According to ESPN, Wimbledon handed out £34 million [US $44.53 million] in total prize money, and even issued £39,000 checks to the players who didn’t make it out of the first round. But meanwhile, some of the housekeepers who kept the club tidy enough for television have claimed that they had to take food out of trash cans because they weren’t paid enough money to eat.

A typical shift for a member of the housekeeping staff at Wimbledon is 15 hours long, starting at 8 AM. The Guardian reports that they are given an hour for lunch “some time between midday and 3 PM,” but dinner is not provided, nor do they get a break to eat, even if they packed a second meal for themselves. The staff clocks out at 10 PM, and the AELTC gives each of them £11.50 (US $15.20) each day to spend on food.

“It’s not uncommon for us to rely on chefs who are about to throw away food to give us something in the evening,” one anonymous housekeeper told the news outlet. “I’ve seen people pick packets of sushi out of bins when it gets really late into a shift.”

Three other members of the housekeeping staff spoke to The Guardian, complaining that personnel at the AELTC does not provide break areas for housekeepers and, if they do find a place where they can stop to inhale their one meal, “facilities management from the club are swiftly on the scene to move them on like a pack of rats.”

The housekeepers are speaking out because, in their experience, their breaks and food allowances are determined by the AELTC—even though the Club itself says that it meets with employers and contractors to determine wages and other compensation.

Either way, it looks grim for the club: The Guardian has also reported that some members of the catering staff are paid £8 ($10.60) per hour whether they work on the day shift or at night. That is “well below” the £10.20 ($13.50) per hour that the Living Wage Foundation defines as an acceptable living wage for workers in London. (There are no laws or regulations requiring employers to pay night-shift workers more than their day-shift counterparts, but not doing so “is frowned upon.”)

“The AELTC values all of the staff who help to deliver the championships and meets annually with each of our major contractors to take their advice and agree on appropriate rates, shift rotations and rest days,” the club said in a statement. “Cleaning staff are provided with meal allowances and contracted breaks, which they are welcome to take in staff break areas.”

If the housekeepers’ accounts are true, it seems like the AELTC has a weird definition of “welcome.”

Great Britain