hide message

Welcome to the Resource Centre

We make it our mission to work with advocates in civil society, business and government to address inequalities of power, seek remedy for abuse, and ensure protection of people and planet.

Both companies and impacted communities thank us for the resources and support we provide.

This is only possible because of your support. Please make a donation today.

Thank you,
Phil Bloomer, Executive Director

Donate now hide message

UK: Google's contracted cleaners threaten strikes over alleged labour violations & dismissal of union members

In October 2019, members of Google's contracted cleaning team in London went on strike over labour rights concerns and the dismissal of two union representatives. The cleaners, contracted by cleaning firm Principle Cleaning Services, say Principle has witheld bonus payments, refused to provide contractual sick pay, and has doubled their workloads by making workforce cuts, which has resulted in workers experiencing health issues. They are threatening further strikes if Principle does not address their concerns, and are publicly calling on Google to take action.

Photo credit: CAIWU

The Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU) says its two members were dismissed days before Principle was due to meet with CAIWU to discuss the cleaners' concerns over working conditions, in what it calls an "incredible coincidence." 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Principle and Google to respond to the alleged labour violations and the dismissal of two worker representatives. Principle said it is unable to comment on its internal investigation in relation to its two employees while it is ongoing. It said it does not recognise any trade union and CAIWU has refused its offers to meet. Google said as it does not employ the cleaners directly it is up to the contractor to determine their compensation and benefits. Both responses are included in full, below.

In a rejoinder, CAIWU said the dismissal of its elected union representatives on the eve of negotiations, combined with Principle's own response that it does not recognise a trade union, directly contradicts Google's Supplier Code of Conduct. CAIWU said Principle's claim that it has refused invitations to meet is not true. Further, CAIWU said its members working for Principle at Google have reported coming under sustained pressure to incriminate their colleagues, and are concerned about the possibility of facing victimisation themselves, having refused to do so. The full rejoinder is included below.

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

NGO rejoinder
8 November 2019

Rejoinder by the Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union

Author: The Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU)

... Google referred to its Supplier Code of Conduct...

... [T]he removal of elected union representatives on the eve of agreed negotiations seem[s] to directly contradict the right of free association and freedom from discrimination [and] Principle themselves state in their response that [they do]... "not recognise any trade union and [do] not have any collective bargaining arrangements in place with any trade union”.

... [W]e would hope that Google would hold all involved accountable to this Code of Conduct.

... Principle’s claim that it has invited CAIWU to meetings and been refused... is not true. We are still in direct communication with Principle to attempt to reach a meeting, and it is the dismissal and building ban on the two elected representatives that has obstructed this process...They have appealed against the dismissals...

[O]ur members... presently have little confidence that the same situation does not await any newly selected representative... it is currently difficult to see on what basis talks might be able to resume. We have committed to remaining in contact when we know the outcome of the representatives’ appeal...

Other CAIWU members working for Principle at Google have reported coming under sustained pressure to incriminate their colleagues, and have discussed their concerns about the possibility of facing victimisation themselves, having refused to do so.

Download the full document here

Company response
28 October 2019

Google's response

Author: Google

While our suppliers determine wages and benefits for their employees, we want working at Google to be a positive experience. We choose our partners and staffing agencies carefully, and review their compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct. In a workplace of our size, not everything goes right all the time. We absolutely want to hear about and address any instances of inappropriate conduct. That’s why we give our extended workforce access to the same helpline as Google employees to report concerns, including the option to report anonymously. And that’s why we deploy a specialised team to investigate potential violations and take action.

Company response
25 October 2019

Principle Cleaning Services' response

Author: Principle Cleaning Services Ltd

We are following our internal investigation and disciplinary procedures in relation to two employees.  As you will appreciate, in the interests of fairness and best practice, these are confidential processes, and it would be inappropriate for us to make any public comment relating to the particulars of those processes or in relation to any individual employee.

Principle Cleaning Services Limited does not recognise any trade union and does not have any collective bargaining arrangements in place with any trade union.  Despite this, we have offered on several occasions to meet with the Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU) to better understand their concerns and engage in constructive dialogue.  To date, the CAIWU has refused that offer.

At Principle we take our obligations as a UK employer seriously, and have acted lawfully and appropriately in relation to our employees' welfare and terms and conditions of employment.

Article
8 October 2019

UK: Google's contract cleaners in London threaten to strike over poor working conditions & 'unfair' suspension of union representatives

Author: Mary Hanbury, Business Insider

"Google's cleaners in London are threatening to go on strike over working conditions", 10 October 2019

... The cleaners, who work for... contract cleaning firm Principle, allege that their employer has withheld bonus payments, refused to provide contractual sick pay, and drastically cut the workforce at Google's offices — effectively doubling their workload, a move that they say resulted in at least four workers suffering from leg and back issues.

In early October... cleaners and union supporters gathered around Google's... London offices to protest... unfair suspension of two cleaners who had been pushing for better working conditions as union representatives of the Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU).

Less than a week before Principle was due to sit down with CAIWU to discuss the issues raised by cleaners, the two reps were suspended from their jobs... in what the union calls an "incredible coincidence." One of the cleaners... accused of being involved in the disappearance of a mobile phone in Google's office... denies this, and says he has not been shown any evidence... [T]he second cleaner was accused of being involved in the disappearance of other unspecified items, but these charges were later dropped by Principle. Both cleaners have been suspended on full pay and are waiting to hear the outcome of an investigation...

At least 18 cleaners are now threatening to strike if Principle doesn't address the issues they have raised, and are publicly calling on Google to take action...

Read the full post here