Protest outside Downing Street over treatment of cleaners and security staff during partygate saga

Cleaners and security staff protested outside No 10 over their treatment during the pandemic. Credit: PA

A protest demonstrating against the treatment of cleaners and security guards by senior government officials was held outside Downing Street on Friday.

The protest followed the publication of Sue Gray’s report into parties in Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns, which found multiple examples of “unacceptable” treatment of security and cleaning staff in Number 10. Ms Gray said in her report that she learned of multiple examples of “unacceptable” treatment of security and cleaning staff during her investigation.

She wrote: “I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly.

“I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. This was unacceptable.”

Protesters demanded better support for low paid workers Credit: PA

The demonstrators also called for “justice” for a Ministry of Justice cleaner, Emanuel Gomes, who died during the pandemic in April 2020 after working for five days with suspected Covid symptoms.

According to reports, a coroner recorded his official cause of death as hypertension of the heart.

Chants including “justice for Emanuel” and “one rule for them and another rule for us” were shouted, while others banged drums to make enough noise for those in Downing Street to hear.

Vicente Mendez, a friend of Mr Gomes, attended the protest and said he was “very grateful” to everyone who had turned out to show their support.

Tea light candles, flowers and A4 posters with Mr Gomes’s face on them were laid along the road.

Protesters also paid tribute to cleaner Emanuel Gomes who died during the pandemic. Credit: PA

Ms Gray's report said staff members “drank excessively” at the Downing Street Christmas party on December 18 2020, and a cleaner found red wine was spilled on one wall the next morning.

Rishi Sunak told ITV News he was "shocked and appalled" to read about the treatment of staff and said "that behaviour is not acceptable" - but refused to comment on whether they are paid fairly.

"As someone who lives in Downing Street, know many of these people, they do a marvellous job and they're marvellous with my kids so I'm very sad to hear about what happened," he added.

The chancellor would not comment on whether Downing Street cleaning and security staff get a 'fair deal'

When asked if such workers get a "fair deal", he replied: "That wouldn't be my particular responsibility to know about their terms and conditions."

But that he "likes to think this government has put in place lots of measures" to make sure "people are paid fairly".

United Voices of the World (UVW), a union which represents cleaners and security guards in government buildings, called the protest outside Downing Street.

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The union said it was protesting against the culture of disrespect towards low-paid workers, such as cleaners and security guards, in government buildings and offices across London.

Petros Elia, UVW general secretary, said: “We’re not in the least bit surprised by the revelations in the Sue Gray report. We have thousands of members who work as cleaners and security guards and these workers face disrespect and discrimination on a daily basis in offices and government buildings across London, not just in Downing Street.

“It is outrageous to have rowdy and illegal parties during the pandemic but to then expect cleaners to mop up after you and to pay them, as well as porters and security guards, poverty wages and deny them full sick pay is abhorrent.

“Most of the cleaners and security guards out there are ethnic minority workers, Black, brown and migrant people, who are disproportionately impacted by poor working conditions and racialised inequalities.

Boris Johnson raises what appears to be a beer on his birthday - in a picture published in the Sue Gray report. Credit: Sue Gray report/PA

A leading official of the cleaning industry is calling for a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary over the way cleaning staff were treated at 10 Downing Street.

Jim Melvin, chairman of the British Cleaning Council, said he was “appalled and upset” at revelations in the partygate report.

Mr Melvin has written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, saying: “At a time when many cleaning and hygiene operational staff, arguably as frontline workers, were putting themselves directly at risk to maintain high standards of hygiene and ensure that key workers and the public were kept as safe as possible during the pandemic, it is absolutely appalling and upsetting to hear that they were being treated with such contempt by people who may sit within government or the Civil Service and who frankly should know better.

“It is our position that cleaning and hygiene operatives are hardworking, professional and deserve to be respected in their vital work, just like anyone one else and certainly how the people concerned would expect to be treated.