As low paid migrant workers, the respondents represented a ‘hard to reach population’. Access to workers was facilitated by trade union representatives and, in some cases, known workers were contacted as a means to then snowball to other respondents. In addition, it was possible to ‘cold-call’ some workers outside their places of work. For example, respondents working on the Underground were approached at work in over 40 stations as well as at one line depot in North London. For the other sectors, respondents were approached at or near their workplaces or employment agencies, whilst others completed the questionnaire in agreed locations, such as cafes, outside working hours. Within the home care sector, some questionnaires were conducted by telephone and, in one instance, through self completion in a focus group.
The vast majority of these interviews were face-to-face and interviewers sought to gather the required data through a genuine discussion with respondents. Most of the interviewers were fluent in languages other than English, including Polish, Spanish and French and this proved vital in accessing and communicating with the respondents. Using a questionnaire, interviewers collected data outlining the pay, conditions, household circumstances, migration histories and experiences of 341 low paid workers (see Appendix 1). Some open ended questions were included to capture the respondents’ attitudes and feelings towards their employment and the interviewers also kept a diary of fieldwork notes to record any comments made by the respondents. The questionnaire was compiled by the research team at Queen Mary, University of London, vetted by London Citizens and the interview team, and then piloted prior to the start of the survey.
Employment Sector Cleaning and other services1
Underground (cleaning) Care Work Hotel and Hospitality2 Food Processing
81 59 58 14 341
23.8 17.3 17.0 4.1 100
The distribution of the population surveyed by sector is shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Sample of Respondents by Sector
1 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'.
2 The sector comprised a variety of job types. Chambermaids/housekeepers accounted for about half of all workers. Chefs and cleaners (14%) and caterers (5%) made up other clearly defined positions, whilst a great diversity of job types (e.g. electricians and decorators working in hotels) accounted for nearly one third of all jobs.