Cleaners and security guards protest against the ‘culture of disrespect’ at Downing Street

Cleaners cleaned up vomit and red wine after parties found in Number 10, Sue Gray’s report (Image: Reuters/ITV)

Cleaners and security guards will protest outside Downing Street tomorrow, disgusted at the treatment of their colleagues by government leaders.

A union representing these workers in government buildings, United Voices of the World (UVW), has called for the demonstration against what it calls a culture of disrespect for low-wage workers.

It comes amid growing anger over the revelations in Sue Gray’s Partygate report, which uncovered repeated examples of “unacceptable treatment” by cleaners and security workers during their investigation into lockdown-breaking parties.

She wrote: “I found that some employees had observed or been exposed to behaviors at work that they felt concerned about but at times felt unable to properly raise.

“I have been made aware of several examples of disrespect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. That was unacceptable.”

The report that has led to four Conservative MPs calling on Boris Johnson to resign today has set out in grim detail the extent of rulebreaking at Number 10 during the Covid crisis.

Staff “drank excessively” at the Downing Street Christmas party on December 18, 2020 and the next morning red wine was spilled on a wall, the report said.


Sue Gray’s report has prompted further calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step down (Image: Reuters)

The UVW said it was protesting a culture of disrespect for low-paid workers such as cleaners and security guards in government buildings and offices across London.

Secretary-General Petros Elia said: “We are not the least bit surprised by the revelations in the Sue Gray report. We have thousands of members working as cleaners and security guards and these workers face disrespect and discrimination on a daily basis in offices and government buildings across London, not just Downing Street.

“It’s outrageous to throw rowdy and illegal parties during the pandemic, but then to expect cleaners to mop up after you and pay them, porters and security guards poverty wages and deny them full sick pay is abhorrent.

“Most of the cleaners and security guards out there are ethnic minority, black, brown and migrant workers who are disproportionately affected by poor working conditions and racial inequalities.”

He continued: “We represent cleaners at the Department of Justice (MoJ) who have had to leave their jobs during the pandemic because they were not provided with adequate PPE and were denied the full sick pay they eventually received for Covid-19 absences.

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“One of our members who worked as a cleaner at MoJ tragically died an untimely and preventable death. That was the level of disrespect and abuse towards underpaid workers.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have personally apologized to cleaning staff number 10 after the report.

But a leading representative of the cleaning industry is now demanding a meeting with the cabinet secretary on this topic.

Jim Melvin, chairman of the British Cleaning Council, said he was “appalled and upset” by the revelations.

He has now written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, saying: “At a time when many cleaning and hygiene workers, arguably as frontline workers, were putting themselves directly at risk to maintain high standards of hygiene and ensure key workers and the public were safe during being kept as safe as possible during the pandemic, it is absolutely appalling and disturbing to hear that they have been treated with such contempt by those who may be in government or the civil service and who, frankly, should know better.

‘We believe that cleaning and sanitation professionals are hardworking, professional and deserve to be respected in their vital work, just like anyone else and certainly as the people affected would be treated.’

He continued: “For further clarification and information: In some parts of the cleaning industry, calls for increased hygiene standards during the pandemic combined with severe staff shortages have pushed many colleagues to the brink of breaking point.

“What cleaning staff need is support and recognition from government and civil service, and they must not be disrespected.”

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MORE: Boris says he’s ‘humbled and learned a lesson’ from Sue Gray’s account Cleaners and security guards protest against the 'culture of disrespect' at Downing Street

Justin Scacco

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