Cleaning workers at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London are balloting for strikes to win an improved pay offer and better sick pay after they rejected a deal from their employer, ISS, which they called “insulting”.
ISS and SOAS are engaging in the kind of buck-passing typical of outsourced working, with both claiming that it is the other’s responsibility to guarantee decent terms and conditions for the employees.
The kind of exploitation to which outsourced cleaning workers are subject was highlighted over the Christmas period, with SOAS cleaners being forced to work in extremely cold temperatures as university bosses shut off the heating system.
Lenin Escudero, a cleaning worker activist and Unison rep, told ISS and SOAS managers that the situation was “demeaning” and “unacceptable”. Even after Richard Poulson, Director of Estates and Facilities, and ISS managers were claiming the heating had been turned on, posts to the SOAS Justice 4 Cleaners Facebook page reported that it remained off.
Cleaners at the University of London’s central Senate House facilities and centrally-administered halls of residence are also due to strike in January, on 27, 28 and 29. Their 27-28 November strikes won significant improvements in holiday pay and sick pay for outsourced staff. Their January strikes will demand full equality of sick pay, holiday pay, and pensions for outsourced workers, and guarantees from management that the closure of the Garden Halls will not lead to job losses. The workers also want their employer, Balfour Beatty, and the University of London to recognise their union, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).