“I am going to lose £700. Travel card expenses to and from work cost me £98. No childcare. I support my three children back home (overseas). I can’t afford rent and bills with this change.”
“The change in hours could force me to quit, doing so would make me and my children homeless.”
These are statements from cleaning staff at Goldsmiths University regarding the changes to contracts of cleaners that outsourcing company ISS implemented on 6 August. The cleaners were not consulted about these shift changes and were given less than one week’s notice.
The proposed changes will result in a £600-700 loss of monthly income which would negatively affect childcare duties, other job schedules and the cleaners’ ability to pay their rent and bills. Cleaners will have to do the same work in less time, with fewer people for no extra pay.
The staff are already used to receiving no sick pay, no holiday pay or proper maternity leave and a lack of job security. To offer an example of the miserable conditions for Goldsmiths workers, according to a Unison source, one cleaner continued working while in the late stages of pregnancy. She suffered a fall, was sent home and then returned to work the very next day. Now ISS are making the cleaners’ situation worse. These changes are being justified by an audit compiled by ISS, but the Unison branch representative has been denied access to this.
In response to this attack on our cleaning staff, staff and students held a demo outside the Estates offices to halt the restructure of the cleaners’ contracts. We requested to speak to a representative to put forward our demand of proper consultation with the cleaners over these contract changes and they refused to speak with us. In response, we refused to move and created as much noise as possible. Unsurprisingly, it was to no avail, the Estates staff were sent home.
Earlier this year there was a meeting between union representatives and the senior management team to discuss bringing workers contracts in-house. They agreed to visit other University of London colleges to see how their in-housing was being handled and promised to do what they could. They have said that the decision could take a while, so they may have to extend its contract with ISS. In other words, they have kicked the issue into the long grass.
The management team says that there are three factors they must consider regarding bringing the cleaners in-house: value for money, cost effectiveness and vague “college values”. It is clear from the example of other recent struggles – such as that of the KCL cleaners – that this is just a diversion.
Outsourcing is just one part of the general push in the direction of marketisation where cost effectiveness is placed above all else. The goal of the current campaign is to permanently end outsourcing of responsibility for workers’ rights. This can only be achieved through struggle linked to the general fight against the marketisation of education.
Staff and students of Goldsmiths are not going to sit idly by as ISS and the University exploit cleaners. An injury to one is an injury to all! Students and workers need to unite together to defeat the unjust and merciless system we live under. There is no force greater underneath the sun than the power of the united workforce.
End the marketisation of education!
Fight exploitation! Fight capitalism!
by Charlotte Weston, Goldsmiths Marxists