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Opinion

Purcell taken to the cleaners

Poor old Philip Purcell is a man besieged on all sides. Last month, London theatregoers heading to the Old Vic to see Kevin Spacey perform in National Anthems, a parable of American materialism, found placard-waving demonstrators demanding a better deal from Morgan Stanley for its office cleaners at Canary Wharf. The cleaners are asking for a minimum wage of £6.70 an hour, 28 days' paid holiday each year, sick pay and a company pension scheme. 

Fair enough, but what has it to do with Morgan Stanley? The cleaners work for a contract cleaning company that bids for the US firm's business.

This cuts little ice with one of the cluster of white, male organizers from the T&G union scurrying around handing out leaflets. "Morgan Stanley have paid £500,000 to sponsor this play," he says. "All we're saying is that if they can afford that, surely they can afford to pay their cleaners a living wage." He gestures at two middle-aged Afro-Caribbean women, stoically holding their banners in the chill London air: the token cleaners. "All they get is £5 per hour."

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