McGrigors London besieged by protesters over cleaner row

Cleaning staff staged a protest outside McGrigors’ London office today (24 November) complaining of mistreatment by the Scottish firm’s contract cleaning company.

At just after 4:30pm, around 20 protesters gathered out side the firm’s offices at 5 Old Bailey to censure Apollo Cleaning Services, which was recently awarded a contract to clean the McGrigors’ London offices. As well as cleaning staff, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) also attended.

Protesters beat drums and chanted, “Apollo, Apollo – shame on you. McGrigors, McGrigors – shame on you”, and handed out leaflets to passers-by.

Apollo was recently awarded the contract to clean McGrigors’ London offices following a competitive tender, replacing Phoenix Specialist Cleaning. The protesters claim that cleaning staff who were employed to clean McGrigors’ offices under Phoenix and transferred to Apollo had been mistreated and, in one case, unfairly dismissed.

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) – a “grassroots, democratic and militant union”, according to its website – is representing the cleaners. In a letter to Paul Lundy, managing director of The Apollo Group of Companies, Chris Ford on behalf of IWW claims that none of the cleaners working at McGrigors were informed or consulted about the change of contracts at McGrigors in contravention of the TUPE Regulations 2006.

Ford also claims that a pregnant cleaner, Martha Quintero, was discriminated against and harassed, and her condition dismissed as “irrelevant”. Other claims made are that Quintero’s husband was sacked, “because he has less than one year’s service”, and that another employee, Gloria Giraldo, was intimidated in a bid to force her to make a false statement to the effect that Quintero had falsified the contract of employment issued by Phoenix. According to the letter, Giraldo collapsed and was rushed to hospital and it is now understood that this matter is with the police.

Apollo did not respond to the IWW’s letter.

In a statement, McGrigors, which appointed Apollo after a competitive tender, said: “We were unaware of any dispute between Apollo and its staff until 11.15pm last night [23 November] and do not know whether any of the allegations made are true. We’re investigating the matter and will take appropriate action if any evidence of wrongdoing is found. We value the work of our cleaners and are treating this situation with the utmost seriousness. We will also be taking every precaution to minimise any potential disruption at our London office. The safety and security of our people and our clients is our number one priority.”

The IWW’s Chris Ford, who attended the protest, went inside McGrigors office and spoke with staff. He said that the brief meeting went well and that further talks were planned for next week.

“McGrigors have said they have no knowledge of this matter, but they have overarching responsibility for their contractors,” said Ford. “He who pays the piper plays the tune.”

In a statement, Apollo said: “We have recently become aware of the allegations made against us by the Independent Workers of the World in flyers distributed to our clients, members of the public and the press. We categorically refute the allegations and the matter is now in the hands of our lawyers.”

Other Law firms that use Apollo include Clyde & Co, Lewis Silkin, Shoosmiths and Stephenson Harwood.