demo in solidarity with UCL cleaners, 28th september

A call-out from activists at University College London. See here for an Evening Standard report on the cleaners.

At UCL most cleaning services and all catering services are outsourced. A number of different contracts currently exist, with varying employment terms for cleaners specifically.

All outsourced cleaning staff, of which we estimate there to be around 180, receive well below the London Living Wage – many are on £6/hour, while others are on the National Minimum Wage of £5.80.

Catering staff have it marginally better: the majority on £7.15/hour, and are largely unionised. However this still means that there are workers in UCL’s very own kitchens who find it difficult to feed their own kids.

No cleaner we have come across receives sick pay or belongs to a trade union. It is apparent that some of the firms operating on campus do not hesitate to intimidate staff from so much as speaking to a representative of any trade union. This time last year UCL’s biggest cleaning contractor Office & General victimised the now-famous Juan Carlos after his managers got fed up of him telling his co-workers about their rights.

Cleaners have complained to us that they know friends who have had wages stolen, with immigration status being used as a tool by managers to threaten workers. Others have to work with hazardous waste and aggressive chemicals without sufficient protection.

This compares to UCL’s directly-employed cleaning staff who do receive above the London Living Wage, and do enjoy employment benefits which outsourced staff can only dream of. Contracted cleaning staff cannot understand how there could be money for UCL’s chosen few, but not for them. Likewise, before catering was outsourced, staff were far better paid, and the few who remain after being TUPE’d [their employment transferred to another boss on the same conditions] receive some £2/hour more than colleagues.

Of course, the money is there. UCL receives the most public funding out of any HE institution in London and is one of the richest in the UK, with an operating budget of £710m and a consistent annual surplus of circa £5m. UCL could afford to pump extra money into the contracts if it set its priorities right.

But naturally UCL chooses not to spend a penny more than it deems necessary. Hence, after all, the outsourced services – the difference in wages between UCL and outsourced services diverted from the pockets of cleaners to an extra tier of management and bosses. A messy arrangement UCL is willing to tolerate to distance itself from employment relations. We demand that the services all be brought back in-house.

After two years of campaigning, UCL Living Wage Campaign has finally managed to secure a meeting with Provost Malcolm Grant.

On Tuesday 28th September, we are calling a short, half-hour lobby from 11.30am as a sign that the campaign is more than the select few in his room. Meet at the top of Malet Place by Print Room Café – outside Provost’s window. (http://www.uclunion.org/maps.php for directions)

At 12 the lobby will withdraw to the UCL Quad for a rally with speakers while negotiations ensue.