Soas cleaners protest over work rights

Outsourced cleaners from Latin America have picketed a London university over calls to have them put on the institution’s payroll.

July 7, 2013

Source: C Ford

Cleaners at Soas, University of London held a protest at the institution’s Bloomsbury campus on 4 July as governors met to consider options over its cleaning service.

Those working for private cleaning firms at the college are calling to be brought in-house, saying they do not receive the same pension rights, sick pay or holiday entitlement as the university’s main workforce.

They were joined by students, trade unionists and anti-poverty activists, who argue Soas should improve employments rights and working conditions for Latin American cleaners given its support for human rights in the region.

Lenin Escudero, a cleaner at Soas, said: “I have given part of my daily working life to keep this university clean, so that its students and employees feel comfortable to study and do their jobs. Yet my work has never been recognised and respected.”

The cleaners are also urging the governors to employ them as part of the direct workforce so they enjoy the same pension rights as other staff, and equal holidays.

Demonstrators claim the vast majority of contracted employees who fall ill receive only statutory sick pay, which gives them nothing for the first three days off duty and from the fourth successive day’s absence just £85.85 a week in state welfare payments.

But, should direct Soas employees become sick during the first three months into their jobs, they get up to two weeks’ full pay, the campaigners claim.

Governors at the meeting looked at a range of options regarding the provision of cleaning and other services, including moving services in-house, with different options costing an additional £0.9 million to £1.7 million a year.

It voted to “actively pursue” the creation of a shared services company with other University of London colleges.

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