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Part 2: Office cleaning and other services

6

Box 2: A Worker’s Profile Li Mei was aged 32 and was born in China, where she worked as a nurse. She came to the UK in 2002 after being told there was a lack of nurses in this country. She had paid a Chinese agency £3000 to get a job here. She later paid another £3000 to an agency in the UK for a work permit and a further £4500 for an English language course in Oxford. Eventually she was sacked from her first job as a nurse because of her difficulties with speaking English. She then worked in a cosmetic surgery clinic for six months, which was then closed, as it was illegal. She found a job as a cleaner at a college in the University of London. She was paid just £4.85 per hour but believed this was a good rate, especially when compared to what her Chinese friends earned in restaurants in Chinatown. However, she also claimed that although she worked 30 hours a week, she was only paid for 20 hours. She was very unhappy about these unfair salary deductions but was afraid to ‘stir up trouble.’ Language was a further obstacle to improving her working conditions.

As with the other sectors, Africans contributed an important share of workers in the office cleaning and other services sector (44%), the majority of whom were from Ghana (23 respondents). However, other groups were also important with respondents from Latin Americans and the Caribbean constituting the second largest share of migrant workers (25.6%), followed closely by Europe (24%), with Portugal and Britain contributing the largest single share of European born workers (14 and 13 respondents respectively). Correspondingly, Black Africans constituted the largest ethnic group (37%), followed by Non-British Whites (21%).

Compared to cleaning on the London Underground, a smaller proportion of workers in office cleaning and other services used social networks to find their job. Even so, the majority (60%) had learnt about the availability of their current position through family and friends, although a proportion of workers used other methods including enquiring about vacancies in person (16%), visiting job agencies (11%) or, least likely, through adverts (8%).

A diversity of employers were encountered in this sector, although a considerable proportion were employed by Initial, Lancaster, KGB and Mowlem Pall Mall (see Table 9). Nearly half of all workers had been with their current employers for just 12

Table 9: Main Employers in Office Cleaning and Other Services

Employer

No

%

Initial

38

29.7

Lancaster

23

18.0

KGB

17

13.3

Mowlem Pall Mall

11

8.6

Other

39

30.5

No response = 1

Total

128

100

6 In the category ‘cleaning and other services’ office cleaners were the most significant group. Porters, waste operatives and service assistants employed as subcontracted labour in hospitals in South London made up a considerable proportion of the workers in 'other services'.

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