John Lewis responds to our letters

johnlewisPlease find below the reply we received from John Lewis and also the second letter we sent today.

You can find our petition here, asking the board at John Lewis to pay the Living Wage to cleaners working at John Lewis shops and offices – PLEASE SIGN.

1. Dear Chloe and Jane

Thank you for your recent emails to Sir Charlie Mayfield, which he has asked me to reply to on his behalf. I thought it best to write to you both together as you mentioned that the signatories of your emails are friends and relations.

I completely agree that our cleaners provide a vital role and I would like to assure you that we share the Living Wage campaign’s objectives to pay employees fairly, and although we differ on how to achieve that goal, we have been in constructive dialogue for a number of years.

Fair pay is one of the core principles of the John Lewis Partnership and every member of our business has the opportunity to increase their earnings based on performance, as well as through competitive overtime rates. This is why we do not believe that a simple measure of base pay set well above market levels is the best way to achieve our objective of fair pay while continuing to operate in a very competitive sector. This is part of our broader approach to reward and pay, based on individual performance and sharing the proceeds of our success, which we believe differentiates us as an employee-owned company.

In relation to our cleaning services, with a few historical exceptions, the majority of cleaners who work in our branches are not employed by us but work for our Managing Agent. I want to assure you that we have listened to the wide variety of opinions on this matter very carefully indeed, and those opinions were considered when we last renegotiated contracts with our suppliers.

We do not set above-market rate pay rates for subcontractors or suppliers as we believe this would be inappropriate interference with the core responsibility of another business, and would be inconsistent with the pay policy we adopt for 90,000 of our own Partners (explained above). Our pay policy includes broad pay ranges because we want our Partners to have the opportunity to progress their pay through performance. We do not believe it is right, therefore, for us to dictate rates of pay to another company or the way they should approach pay and reward.

I would like to assure you that where we decide to outsource, we insist on good employment practices from all suppliers and we have defined standards for employment policies which we expect third party suppliers to comply with. Indeed, we made a number of improvements to our policy as part of a recent review, including improved processes around contract placement and contractor management, and enhanced employment standards. As a result, suppliers have to ensure that pay and benefits must be at least fully comparable with locally bench marked industry norms.

We greatly appreciate the hard work performed by all of our contract cleaners and can assure you that this work is not taken for granted in any of our branches.

I know this is an issue that is important to you and I hope my reply answers your questions.

I also hope that you continue to shop with us as valued customers.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Moys

Director of Communications, John Lewis Partnership



And our response:


Dear Sir Charlie

We acknowledge receipt of Mr Moyes’s email of 1st May.

We are disappointed that you felt it satisfactory to delegate the task of replying to emails from some 130 loyal customers. This is despite your stated commitment to building trust with customers.

We experienced the tone of Mr Moyes’s email as patronising and disdainful.

We are not satisfied with Mr Moyes’s explanation which appears to us to fail to deal with our central point that John Lewis’s highly favourable year end position enables the company to renegotiate its contract with ICM to ensure the cleaners receive a living wage This must be true when the company is able to pay 14% bonus rates.  A living wage is a basic right to which can be added additional earnings from overtime and meeting performance targets. It now appears from Mr Moyes’s email that some partners are not receiving the living wage. We should like to know if this is the case.

The London Living Wage Foundation (Principal Partners:   KPMG,   Nationwide,   Save the Children,   Aviva,   Linklaters,  Trust for London,  the Resolution Foundation,  The  Joseph Rowntree Foundation   and the Joseph Rowntree Trust) is successfully campaigning for all employers to adopt at least the Living Wage if not the London Living Wage.  Already more than 650 organisations have signed up to this.  These include many, many household names and, to us, it is truly shocking not to see John Lewis Partnerships included in this.

However we are particularly addressing with you the pay of contract cleaners and, although Mr Moyes  says you “believe it would be inappropriate for you to set above market rates for subcontractors”  you could follow the precedent set by (amongst others)The Royal Opera House and the Tate and Lyle London Offices who are already ensuring that their cleaners are paid not just the Living Wage but the London Living Wage.  The Royal Opera House uses cleaners employed through Mitie.   The London Cleaning Services, is another ethical employer of cleaners, who pay a living wage for London.

It is disingenuous to state that it would be wrong to intervene in a contractor’s pay arrangements with its staff, while at the same time stating that contracted cleaners must receive rates of pay which are comparable with  bench marked industry norms and not above – market levels. Surely this is a very clear contract condition ? Additionally, Mr Moues comments on the importance of fair pay and the opportunity for members to increase earnings by performance while failing to acknowledge that contracted out staff are not eligible to receive  bonus payments. The several references to partners’ pay is irrelevant and appears to be an attempt to obfuscate.

The ethical stance of the company, particularly in respect of fair pay and commitment to valuing of all staff was an important factor in our choice of John Lewis as customers.  None of us would deny the importance of rewarding staff for their commitment and contribution to the performance of the company as a whole , but the cleaners are unfairly excluded . Mr Moyes notes that the majority of cleaners are outsourced, as if this is inevitable and has always been the case, and to refer to matching within the sector merely restates the problem rather than showing leadership and commitment to equality. The company is free to seek any number of solutions to this moral issue. He makes no acknowledgement  of the growing inequality in Britain and the now established fact of its deleterious impact on our whole society.  In writing to you we draw attention to our expectation as customers that you will show ethical and robust leadership  in the retail sector.

We repeat that we call on you to join the  other employers  who are already ensuring that cleaners receive the living wage.

CAIWU is a not-for-profit organisation. We rely on contributions from our members and supporters in order to carry out our work. If you like what we do, please consider making a donation. Thank you.

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