Two jobs with one stone – Reports about working at London Linen and Skinny Bakery in west London


A friend of ours summarised his experiences about working at two west London workplaces as a temporary worker…

*** The City’s dirty sheets…

I worked in an industrial laundrette called London Caterer Linen in Southall. The company employs several hundred people, including the delivery drivers. While workers are paid barely more than the minimum wage, they clean the spunky sheets, dirty tablecloths and sweaty towels of some seriously rich people and corporations: the Royal Palace in Windsor, Harrods, the Sun News, the Financial Times and hotels like the Holiday Inn, Marriott, and Sheraton. They even had a special order for the Royal Wedding in May 2018. The company delivers linen to various locations in the south of England.

All workers are of foreign background, some from Eastern Europe and some from South Asia. There are slightly more women than men.  I saw only one white English lady who was the head manager of the warehouse. There are some pretty big washing machines around, plus pressing and ironing and folding machines. I worked in the loading area with three other guys on my shift – two of them ‘team-leaders’. We had to unload vehicles and separate different types of linen like bed linen, towels, aprons into different coloured bags. After sorting them we had to put them in different cages. The work is quite simple, and not too hard when you unload: there is a little ramp where drivers throw the bags, which we had to scan and place in a cage. Loading the vans is much harder as you can’t use the ramp. Some of the bags are 30kg plus and you have to throw them into the vans – there is not enough staff and time to do it otherwise. Also some of the pre-sorting is done twice, the work organisation isn’t that good. You have to stay till the job is done, which means that you nearly always work at least one hour overtime till midnight.

The guys I worked with were cool, but the staff shortage stressed them out. One guy shifted to the transport department to become a driver – the drivers’ wage is £11.60, compared to £8.60 for a loading team leader. Only disadvantage is that they often have to work overtime due to traffic. And the van car park is way too small, which makes parking a nightmare. The other team leader just disappeared one day, he was pissed off that we had to stay till 1am for three days in a row. Without him we didn’t know how to sort the bags properly, it was all chaos. So they asked the former team leader to stay longer after he finished his driver’s shift – this meant he got up at 4:30am, drove till 5pm and then worked with us in the loading department till 1am! It was clear that he wouldn’t do this for long. They approached me and asked me if I want to become team-leader, but I thought “F**k that, I don’t kill myself for 60p more”. Instead I decided to change jobs, I’d had enough of throwing cotton bales…

*** Have your cake and beat it…

I thought I would try something sweeter, so I shifted job to a small bakery in Park Royal, specialising in low carb, low sugar cakes and cookies. That’s why it’s called Skinny Bakery, as if there wasn’t enough body shaming going on already. The bakery doesn’t have its own shops.  The company sells the cakes nationwide, mainly through the internet. We had regular orders for the Wholefoods chain owned by Amazon, but there are only five shops in London, I think. You can even order the cakes through Amazon. The cakes are collected and delivered by DHL each the morning and UK Mail collects for Wholefoods once a week.

All workers are hired directly, though the pay is skinny, too – the bare minimum. There are only three production workers (one of them is the production manager). There is only one big mixing machine, the rest of the equipment is pretty basic. Stuff is baked from scratch – the owner has a patent on the recipes. Then there is one office worker and two guys picking and packing. Sometimes the owner comes in and works in the office. She is the only English person, the working folks were from Romania, Somalia, Poland, Portugal.

The job was good at first. Us two people in packing kept busy, but didn’t get too stressed. Once we finished packing we helped in production, so there was always something to do. After the second week I had some feedback, which was a bit strange: I was asked if I could do the packing work on my own and if I was comfortable with working with my colleague. I said that I enjoyed working with my colleague. I said that it was too early to tell if the job could be done by one person alone. I figured that they hired two people to see who would be able to work faster. After a few weeks the pressure increased and the production manager told us to hurry up in order to help in production earlier. The owner threatened both of us in packing with terminating the contract, and while she wanted us to work faster she also complained about mistakes in the processing of orders. I think the latter was an excuse to justify all that pressure…

I told my colleague that we have to keep calm and try not fall into the trap of competition and that we should avoid unnecessary confrontation. This is really difficult when management basically tells you to compete for your job with your fellow worker. We continued working and being friendly with each other in this bad atmosphere for some more weeks. I then messed up my lower back when lifting a big flour sack – I crawled home, saw my GP and he confirmed that I should rest for two weeks. As you can imagine, this work accident decided my fate at Skinflint Bakery and I moved on to new pastures…


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