The Independent reports today that cleaners at Sotheby’s London have been banned from work in the wake of a protest staged last night over better sick-pay terms.
While million-dollar-art auctions raged inside of Sotheby’s, outside a group of workers and sympathizers staged what The Independent called a “loud but peaceful” demonstration. This morning, however, the four cleaners who attended last night’s protest–which numbered around 100 people total, according to the Antiques Trade Gazette, which was on hand for the auction–were denied entry to their workplace. This is according to a statement from the independent trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), who played a part in organizing workers for the demonstration.
“[A representative of Servest, Sotheby’s’ cleaning contractor] stopped them at the entrance and said ‘give me your passes, you’re no longer welcome at Sotheby’s—we’ve been instructed by Sotheby’s to not allow you on site,’” UVW’s general secretary Petros Elia told The Independent. “Our argument is that Sotheby’s is [a] massively, extremely wealthy company. Contractual sick-pay is not a crazy thing.”
Sotheby’s said the employees have been “suspended” and not permanently fired.
The cleaner’s general argument is based around a demand for Servest to provide contractual sick-pay with better conditions, an action that comes in the wake of a successful campaign in February to increase wages.
A spokesperson for Sotheby’s stated that protesters attempted to “assault” auction goers, a claim unsubstantiated by the press and denied by the demonstrators.