Topshop is part of Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which recorded £251.6m in total group operating profit in the year to the end of August 2015. According to Forbes, Philip Green and his wife Christina are worth $6.1bn (£4.3bn).
For the past six and a half years, Susana has cleaned Topshop’s flagship store for a living. For the past hour, the Ecuadorian single mother of three has been pouring out stories of low pay, bullying and excessive workloads in breathless Spanish. The words flow effortlessly until she starts to talk about the seven months she had to take off work for stress and anxiety. At that point her pace slows and her voice breaks as she tries to hold back tears.
It happened in 2011, after she says her manager at Britannia Services Group – the company contracted to clean Topshop’s Oxford Street branch – kicked a bucket at her in the store. Speaking to the Guardian through a translator, she says: “That was the final straw. I was depressed and humiliated.” She was admitted to hospital for stress.
In response to her allegations, Britannia told the Guardian it could not discuss personnel issues with the press due to data protection and privacy laws but pointed out they have a grievance procedure in place available to all members of staff.
Five years later, Susana is still working for Britannia. She says the working environment has got better but working five hours a day, six days a week on £6.75 an hour – 5p above minimum wage but £2.65 below the London living wage – isn’t enough to cover rent, childcare and travel.