Wage Protest Sullies Sotheby’s London Contemporary Sale

The union wants Sotheby's to honor the terms of the new contract.

At Sotheby’s London’s Bond Street headquarters this evening, July 1, where an Andy Warhol dollar bill just sold for a breathtaking $32.8 million, protestors gathered outside the building.

Protestors were members of the union representing the contracted cleaning service that Sotheby’s had recently dropped. According to a Facebook post by the union, United Voices of the World (UVW), which included the cri de coeur “Dignity Under the Hammer,” a protest had been planned for July 1.

The cancellation of CCML came about just a month after the cleaning service had won an extensive campaign to earn a London hourly living wage of £9.15 per hour ($14.40) (which included back pay).


Photo: Jacqueline Towers-P via Instagram

After letting the cleaning service go, the auction house brought on a different cleaning service called “Servest.” A UVW worker told Art F City, that the contract differs markedly from the one negotiated with CCML. As a result, Sotheby’s allegedly does not have to implement contractual sick pay or back pay per the London Living Wage.

Servest further threatened its employees with disciplinary action if they choose to exercise their right to protest the retraction of the favorable terms first agreed to by CCML, according to Art F City.

“Servest and Sotheby’s have teamed up to deny the cleaners their hard fought for rights,” a UVW spokesperson told Art F City. “They are also engaging in shameless union-busting tactics. The cleaners, however, will not be intimidated. This fight will be fought until Servest apologizes and Sotheby’s agrees to backdate the Living Wage and introduce contractual sick pay for the cleaners. It is time they stopped treating them like second class employees.”

Update July 2:  Sotheby’s has responded in an email by asserting “CCML had not agreed to pay the current London Living Wage which from 1 Nov 2014 was £9.15 nor any backpay,” “the new contract between Servest and its employees provided for a pay rise to the rate of the current London Living Wage of £9.15,” “CCML had never agreed to implement contractual sick pay or back pay per the London Living Wage,” and “Servest reminded their staff that those employed on Sotheby’s premises must demonstrate qualifications and competences appropriate to the performance of their duties and Sotheby’s retains the right to restrict access in the interests of safeguarding clients, property and staff.”


A Tweet from Blade of Grass.

A Tweet from @abladeofgrass.


For related coverage see:

Animal Rights Activists Protest Untitled (12 Horses) Outside Gavin Brown’s Enterprise

Hong Kong Protests Panic Auction Houses on Eve of Sales

Gulf Labor Protests Shut Down Guggenheim Museum in New York



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