Tower Hamlets Watch

Poplar Harca Estate Cleaners Protest Low Pay & Rights | September 14, 2010

Steve Stride

Yesterday between 12 & 1pm estate cleaners & ground workers employed by Poplar Harca protested outside Poplar Harcas Offices in East India Dock Road. The protest has been bubbling up for quite some time, for over a year Estate Cleaners/Ground Workers have been feeling abused by Steve Stride’s approach to his front line staff.

Apparently Poplar Harca pay their estate cleaners/ground workers and gardening crew far below the London Living Wage which was set up because of the higher cost of living in London. The London Live Wage tackles poverty directly and gives workers the bare minimum that stops them falling into the poverty trap. In Tower Hamlets the workers claim to be the lowest paid estate cleaners of any organisation acrosss the entire borough.

All of the estate cleaners were working for an agency around 2 years ago, and were then brought in-house over two years ago. Those employees were given a contract that restricted them to wages that make it difficult to survive in todays climate.

They also suffer from restrictions on their actual pay-scale. They do not enjoy the same status as other Poplar Harca Employees when it comes to pay-scaling. Where all other employees enjoy regular pay reviews and differing levels of pay linked to time of service, those at the lowest end of the employee spectrum working for Poplar Harca are left out of these types of bonus structures. This they argue leaves a disallusioned workforce feeling left out and abused by their employer.

Add this to the fact that they were also burdened with a contract that tied them into also working one weekend a month for no extra pay. Working both Saturday and Sunday without pay left them feeling abused by their employer Poplar Harca. Over the past few years, they argue that Poplar Harca have slowly decimated the front line workforce, on some estates you would have had upto 8 estate cleaners, where now there are around 3 to 5 workers, this has led to increased patches for each worker and ultimately more work. If you go walking around the estates now, you will see weeds growing through concrete, rats and mice now plaguing the estates, and overworked and overburdend workforce.

For over 2 years they have been fighting to be heard by Mr Stride who apparently turns up in person to the meetings with Union reps, but still to this day they feel they are getting no-where. Steve Stride the CEO of Poplar Harca whos own wages have gone up by at least 73% since 2003 (over 3 times the rate of inflation). Who still is part of the Local Government Pension Scheme adminstered when he was a housing manager at Tower Hamlets Council cannot see that all of his employees should be paid at least the London Living Wage immediately, and from sources within Poplar Harca themselves doesn’t seem to support it.

“The living wage campaigners say that low pay condemns workers to a grinding life of poverty, many having to do two or three jobs, with limited time to see their own families. ” – BBC May 2010

Even Tower Hamlets Council has a policy on the London Living Wage, where all directly employed personel are at minimum paid the London Living Wage, and contracted ‘should’ be paid this scale. Shame they dont try and pressure their beloved partners though

Union reps met previous to yesterday’s protest and were told by Poplar Harca that the London Living Wage would be reflected in their pay no earlier than April 2011 over 8 months away, but were instructed that there would be no backdating of the payrise, unlike the cleaners for the London Underground. No promises were made either though regarding bringing all employees into the wage structuring that is enjoyed by all other employees

All those attending the protest turned up within their one unpaid dinner hour to show support for their representatives inside who were to have another meeting from 1pm onwards to try and negotiate again for the raise to start sooner than April. Cleaners I spoke to had still not heard the outcome of yesterdays meeting.

Tension surrounded the protest as around 5-10 members of staff including senior members of the cleaning staff and other supervisors turned up and stood apart from the protestors laughing and shouting abuse at the protestors, who felt this was “out of order”. This became so heated that some felt that a fight was about to break out.

I asked Debbie Cordrey – Poplar Harcas Chair of the Finance & Audit Board, about this neglect of estate cleaners myself in an earlier post, asking whether the rumours I was hearing were true regarding staff treatment. In her capacity as Chair of that board she would have probably been instrumental in descisions made regarding paying staff wage rates that can lead people into poverty. After accusing me of “suggesting that we (Poplar Harca) are some kind of secret society that meets under cover of darkness” she then goes on to avoid answering the question. I wonder if Debbie who was Senior Unison shop steward at Island Homes, who was summarily dismissed on 4 February 2009 from Island Homes, and is now a public champion for Poplar Harca, I wonder if she would spare a thought now for those down-trodden by Poplar Harca. I wonder also if she knows the Unison representatives trying to fight for the cleaners, as a senior shop steward herself for Unison, I wonder how she feels?. Not enough I imagine to answer a simple question over a month ago, about issues she probably once stood for.

Mayor Boris Johnson is so supportive of the idea of the London Living Wage, and sees the need to give assistance to those who are most vulnerable to the effects of falling into poverty within London, has just recently raised the London Living Wage by another 25 pence per hour to £7.85 per hour.

As I’ve already stated in my earlier post, sources tell me that apparently Poplar Harca Estate Cleaners are the lowest paid in the borough, whether thats true or not, it is a fact that Poplar Harca cannot seem to see the importance of the London Living Wage. As campaigners keep pushing, this is about being treated fairly and bringing a small sense of pride in working at the bottom end of the scale. Its not much to ask, they dont want the earth but just a ‘dignified form of living’…

As always if there is anything you read here that is incorrect or that you dispute, please contact me and I will retract any statements that you prove otherwise. Unlike some I undoubtedly encourage free and open discussion, in fact I demand it. All responses will be published unless containing any defamatory, abusive or other derogatory statements.

Posted in Poplar Harca


  1. I note that you have once again chosen to attack me in a personal way for daring to disagree with the incorrect allegations you were making on your ‘blog’. It is so easy to make these personal attacks from behind the apron strings of anonymity. While my instinct is to respond to this and clear my name, I am sure that people who know me will draw their own conclusions about these unfounded accusations made by someone who is not even prepared to put their name to what they are blogging.

    Comment by Debbie Cordrey — September 22, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  2. […] on the corner of Lukin Street at 7pm (see Google Maps Street View), Poplar Harca Estate Cleaners (see last post)sources inform me that they have been summoned to a meeting with the the Chief Executive Steve […]

    Pingback by Poplar Harca Estate Cleaners & London Living Wage public meeting « Tower Hamlets Watch — October 6, 2010 @ 9:44 am

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